NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - What goes up must come down - the Town of Hempstead supervisor and environmentalists proposed legislation on Monday which would make it illegal to intentionally release balloons. The fine would be up to $500 for a first offense.
The legislation is aimed at protecting the environment and wildlife while preventing pollution. The primary purpose of the proposal is education.
"It's not about a 5-year-old child who accidentally lets go of a balloon and it floats up in the air," said Laura Gillen, Town of Hempstead supervisor. "It's about having parties, weddings, any celebration where in the past everyone held a balloon and let it go in the air, we're not going to see it anymore."
At Camp Anchor, a special needs program for children and adults, on their last day they celebrated by releasing more than 200 balloons as part of a longstanding tradition. While they were marketed as biodegradable, environmentalists are trying to deflate what they call a myth.
"The bottom line is, balloons don't go to heaven but they sure send wildlife there prematurely," said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "To biodegrade and to be environmentally friendly means that the balloon is supposed to degrade into natural environmental elements that are safe for our environment. Balloons don't do that."
In the future, Camp Anchor plans to blow bubbles as a more environmentally friendly way to celebrate.
Similar legislation has already passed in the city of Long Beach and several east end towns. It's scheduled to be voted on in Hempstead on October 2.