Balloon regulations may be in Swampscott’s future

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Rules governing the balloons in Swampscott? They can be in the future of the city.

Balloon discussions among city officials are ongoing: A bulleted item “restriction of balloon discussions” appeared on the Swampscott Board of Health’s agenda for a July 7 town hall meeting that ultimately ended. been canceled.

Balloon regulation discussions are underway at Swampscott.

Meanwhile, the Swampscott Conservation Commission released an agenda that lists “discussions on the use of balloons on city conservation lands” for its public meeting on Thursday, July 22.

“The Conservation Commission will take care of possibly sending a letter to the relevant departments of the schools and the city not to use balloons on the protected lands,” said Toni Bandrowicz, vice-chairman of the committee and chairman of the Swampscott Conservancy.

There are many bans on lighter-than-air gas balloons, aimed at reducing not only pollution but also their impact on wildlife.

Bandrowicz said the origin of the local balloon talks lies with Deb Newman, a member and resident of the Swampscott Conservancy.

“It’s a big deal,” Newman said in an interview with the Swampscott Reporter. “I didn’t make this up out of the blue.”

Bandrowicz writes the monthly Nature in the Neighborhood column on behalf of the Swampscott Conservancy, which is published by the Swampscott Reporter. In a June column, entitled “the dark side of balloonsShe acknowledges how ridiculous balloon regulations can seem, but asks readers to consider and take their goal seriously.

“If the balloons come off, they can wreak havoc on the environment,” Bandrowicz wrote, “It’s a nice idea until we notice The Environmental Nature Center reminds us that ‘what goes up must come down … All dropped balloons, whether dropped intentionally or not, return to earth as ugly waste – including those marketed as “biodegradable latex”… [They] return to land and sea. ‘”

Bandrowicz also wrote that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that “over a five-year period (2010-2014), 4,916 pieces of balloon waste were found in Virginia by volunteers participating in the International Coastal Cleanup, with over 3,000 of these pieces found on ocean beaches.

The animals eat the residue from balloons that fall back to earth, according to Newman.

“They ingest the debris from the balloon, including string and ribbons, and it gets stuck in their digestive tract, so they’re slowly starving to death,” Newman said. “You’ll see a lot of birds with ribbons of balloons wrapped around their beaks so they can’t open their mouths. I mean, it’s heartbreaking.

Beach communities – like Chatham, Everett, Nantucket and Provincetown – have issued regulations prohibiting or restricting the use of balloons inflated with helium. Australia, the United Kingdom and several states in the United States have regulations in place regarding the release of balloons. Infractions are often accompanied by monetary fines.

“So many regulations or state laws are tied to the ban on dropping balloons,” Newman said. “Some of them even go further: they don’t allow it to be sold.

Bandrowicz and Newman note that there have been times the city has found balloon debris left behind on Linscott Park – which falls under the purview of the Conservation Commission.

A bill in the state legislature would prohibit “the sale, distribution and release of any type of balloon” at the state level.

Newman also pointed out that helium is a non-renewable resource.

“There is also a shortage of helium, and helium is vital for some medical tests. You can’t make helium. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, ”she said. “And there is concern, by some scientists in the medical community, that we are going to use our helium on the frivolity of having balloons.”

For some time now, Newman has said she has been pushing and advocating for local balloon regulations – to the point where she said “people are probably tired of hearing me talk about it.”

She said she brought the environmental issue to the attention of the Swampscott Board of Selectmen. In due course, she said two members contacted her to find out more.

“They were just interested in finding out more months ago,” she said, “so I did some more research, sent them links, and emailed them sample policies. ”

As a seaside community, Swampscott takes environmental stewardship seriously. Between 2018-19, members of the Swampscott Town reunion were banned plastic bags and straws.

“Both times it was a slam dunk with the single-use plastic bags and plastic straws,” Newman said. “We didn’t have to do any education.

After pushing the balloon issue for some time now, she is thrilled with the town hall of Swampscott and officials are interested in exploring possible solutions to address the environmental issue.

The Swampscott Reporter has contacted Swampscott City Administrator Sean Fitzgerald and Director of Public Health Jeff Vaughn for comment, but the newspaper has not had a response from them at the time of publication.

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