Council Takes Testimony On Bill Banning Intentional Launch Of Helium Filled Balloons

The panel also finalizes process of interviewing Board of Ed candidates.


Frederick, Md (KM) The Frederick County Council on Tuesday night took public testimony on legislation to ban the intentional release of helium-filled balloons in the air. The measure sponsored by Councilman Kai Hagen would make it unlawful for persons or persons to knowingly and intentionally release, or organize the release of helium-filled balloons into the air.  Violators could face fines of up to $250.

Only two people testified. One was Joshua Kramer who said this measure is similar to anti-littering laws in many jurisdictions. “Littering not only makes our communities less attractive, but it can be harmful to farms pets and aquatic marine life,” he said. Kramer said Queen Anne’s County has a similar ordinance, and legislation to ban the intentional release of helium-filled balloons into the air is being prepared for the 2020 Maryland General Assembly. He says that bill has bipartisan co-sponsorship.

The second person who spoke was Mark Long from Emmitsburg, who said  materials  from these balloons  take a long time to break down. “Eventually, when the balloons do break down, they contribute to the growing problem of micro-plastics in our environment that are now found everywhere including remote areas such the Arctic and Antarctic,” he said. “We don’t yet know the environmental and health consequences of having these micro-plastic ubiquitous in our environment or in our bodies.”

In background to the bill, Councilman Hagen says these balloons are made of Mylar, plastic or latex, which, after they are released into the air, land on farms, forests, communities and aquatic environments such as rivers, ponds,, lakes, estuaries and oceans. In addition, he says, many animals  ingest these materials, mistaking them for food, which  often block their digestive systems, leading to death by starvation.

Hagen also says these material are a “substantial environmental and public health concern and issue” which take years to break down. When they do, he says they become  micro-plastics which end up everywhere, including  our food and our bodies.

The bill makes exception balloons released by the State of Maryland and the U.S. Government; hot air balloons which are recovered after launch; unintentional  or accidental releases of any balloons; and pilot balloons released by hot air balloons to determine weather conditions such as wind speed and direction.

The Council is expected to vote on the bill at a later date.

Board of Ed Candidates

The Council also finalized the interview process for candidates who want to serve the unexpired term on the Board of Education. There were 17 candidates who applied for the position, but the Council whittled down that number to six.

Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer said those six candidates, who are expected to be named on Wednesday, are scheduled to be interviewed on Friday, December 13th behind closed doors. “The candidate interviews will go on line once video services are finished with them which should be not long after we finished the interview process,” she said. “We will provide a link on our website.”

During its  meeting Tuesday of next week, the Council will receive comment from citizens regarding the six candidates. After that, Keegan-Ayer says the Council will decide  on which three candidates to send to the County Executive for her consideration.

The County Executive will chose one of the three. That person’s name will be sent back to the Council for a vote.

The individual chosen will serve out the term of Joy Schaefer, who resigned from the Board of Education to take a job in the County Executive’s Office. That term will expire in December, 2020.


By Kevin McManus