Smith Mountain Lake Pirate Days is this weekend, and organizers are reminding those participating in pirate battles not to use water balloons.
The use of biodegradable water balloons has been a staple of past battles during Pirate Days, but an amendment to Virginia Code §29.1-556.1 prohibited the release or release of any balloon made from any material requiring more than 5 minutes of contact with air or water to degrade. , which are essentially all water balloons.
This law came into effect on July 1 last year, but many people were unaware of the revised law. This year, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources will be on the lookout for violators and making sure people on the lake know the rules.
A civil penalty of $25 per ball could be applied if necessary.
The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources issued the following press release regarding water balloons today:
In preparation for Smith Mountain Lake Pirate Days being held on July 16, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) reminds everyone that a new regulation went into effect July 1, 2021, prohibiting citizens from intentionally releasing or dumping any non-biodegradable or non-photodegradable balloons outdoors in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
§ 29.1-556.1. Release of certain balloons prohibited; civil penalty; Public Service.
A. It is illegal for anyone 16 years of age or older or any other person to intentionally release, throw or cause to be released or thrown outside any ball made of a non-biodegradable or non-photodegradable material or any material which requires more five minutes contact with air or water to degrade. Any person found guilty of an infraction of this article is liable to a civil fine of $25 per balloon released or thrown, which will be paid into the Game Protection Fund established in accordance with § 29.1-101. If a person under the age of 16 releases a balloon in accordance with or on the instructions of an adult, the adult will be subject to the civil penalty imposed.
B. The provisions of this section do not apply to (i) a ball released (a) by or on behalf of a Commonwealth or United States agency or (b) under contract with the Commonwealth, the United States, or any other state, territory or government for scientific or meteorological purposes or (ii) a hot air balloon recovered after launch.
“We intend to remedy any violations we observe,” said Sgt. Tim Dooley with DWR. “This can be done in a variety of ways, including educating individuals about code changes or, if warranted, an official warning or summons can be issued.”
DWR wants everyone to have fun and stay safe this weekend amidst all the festivities, but would like to remind you that releasing balloons is prohibited.
There’s more to this story in the current issue of the Smith Mountain Eagle Journal. If you’re a subscriber, check out the rest of the story in the e-edition version at www.smithmountaineagle.com/edition. If you’re not a subscriber, get a print edition or subscribe to www.smithmountaineagle.com/subscriber_services.