Effective October 13, 2019, it will be illegal to release “non-biodegradable helium balloons” in Queen Anne’s County pursuant to an ordinance passed unanimously by the Queen Anne’s County Board of County Commissioners during its legislative session on August 27.
In the ordinance’s preamble, the Commissioners determined that “the release into the atmosphere of large numbers of balloons inflated with lighter than-air gases poses a danger and nuisance to the environment, agricultural industry, wildlife and marine animals.”
The ordinance was adopted to protect “the waters, animals and overall environment of Queen Anne’s County from the toxic impact of non-biodegradable balloons that are released within Queen Anne’s County by criminalizing the willing release of balloons within Queen Anne’s County.”
The ordinance is applicable to “any person or persons to knowingly and intentionally release, organize the release of or intentionally cause to be released into the atmosphere of Queen Anne’s County any Balloon unless such Balloon is either biodegradable or photodegradable.”
Releases by government and scientific organizations, negligent releases, and hot air balloonists are exempted.
Violators of the ordinance could be found be guilty of a civil infraction and subject to a fine of not more than Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250.00).
The ordinance was introduced by Commissioner Christopher M. Corchiarino, who cited the blatant littering aspect of balloon releases and the negative impact on waterways and rural landscapes.
The bill was strongly supported by Queen Anne’s Conservation Association. “Deflated mylar and latex balloons, and the ribbons attached to them, harm the environment by maiming and killing wildlife, sea creatures, and farm animals,” QACA Executive Director Jay Falstad explained in a statement. “This ordinance is a major accomplishment, and I couldn’t be more proud that Queen Anne’s County is taking the lead on this important environmental issue.”
Queen Anne’s County is the first local jurisdiction to adopt balloon release legislation in Maryland and could pose interesting legal questions when prohibited balloons are released from adjoining counties but enter Queen Anne’s air space.