Steve Bellone signs helium balloon release ban
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signs a bill banning the intentional release outdoors of helium balloons Sept. 27 at Cathedral Pines Park in Middle Island. Courtesy photo: Office of the county executive

The intentional release of helium balloons in Suffolk County has been banned by an amendment to the Suffolk County code signed into law Friday afternoon by County Executive Steve Bellone.

The legislation, sponsored by Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and passed by the county legislature Sept. 4, makes it illegal to intentionally release outdoors balloons filled with helium or lighter-than-air gas. The restriction applies to latex as well as mylar balloons.

“Latex and mylar balloons are the most common form of floating garbage within 200 miles of U.S. shorelines and they are frequently mistaken by marine life as food,” Bellone said Friday. “Balloons often cause marine life to either choke on the balloon or create an intestinal obstruction which in turn kills the animal.”

Bellone signed the legislation in a ceremony at Cathedral Pines Park in Middle Island, surrounded by bill sponsor Anker and environmental advocates who pushed for its enactment.

The new ban does not apply to balloons being used for carrying scientific instrumentation during the performance of an experiment or testing procedure, balloons released on behalf of a government agency or pursuant to a government contract for scientific or meteorological purposes, or to hot air balloons that are recovered after launching. It also does not apply to balloons released indoors.

Businesses that sell helium or lighter-than-air gas balloons in Suffolk will be required to post a notice at the point of sale informing customers that it is illegal to release the balloons outdoors.

The measure drew strong support at a July 16 public hearing and was passed unanimously by the legislature last month.

The law will take effect 90 days after filing with the New York secretary of state.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.