'Flaming bags of death' and balloons a blight on Okanagan lakes - InfoNews

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'Flaming bags of death' and balloons a blight on Okanagan lakes

Looking out over Okanagan Lake from Bella Vista Road in Vernon.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
May 09, 2019 - 4:00 PM

KELOWNA - A video posted by three local men who fished flaming plastic lanterns from Wood Lake has both prompted gratitude and raised the ire of readers.

People are thankful that the Backing Boys cleaned up the plastic lanterns that they’d watched fall from the sky, but there’s also a lot of frustration that it was even necessary. Comments such as “police are investigating?” and “I’m utterly baffled that people are this stupid and irresponsible” filled the comment spaces on Facebook posts where the video has landed.

While sending three gas fuelled lanterns into the air is a particularly egregious, there does seem to be a bit of a blind spot when it comes to keeping the lake clean.

Corinne Jackson, of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, said her organization tries to encourage people to recognize that our water bodies are sources of drinking water and also a space for wildlife. It’s clear, however, that there’s a disconnect.

“Anyone who has walked along a beach can see cigarette butts, plastic lids and plastic bottles,” she said. “They can break down and be ingested by fish and birds.”

Another concern, much like the disposable floating lanterns, is balloons. Jackson pointed out pointed out that there are already bans for balloon releases in several US states, as well as the UK and Australia.

“With balloons — whether it be with an actual balloon release or businesses that put up balloons or festivals that use them — we need to realize these balloons have to land somewhere, so (sending them into the sky) is basically littering or polluting,” she said. “When they break or as they break down, there’s a chance of these pieces of plastic or latex getting into our water bodies and being ingested. We share the water with fish, with birds in and around our lakes and other animals. So it’s best to avoid plastics that are going to break down and pollute out waters.”

Jackson said balloon releases could be replaced by bubbles, flower petal floats in the lake or planting a tree.

“My kids had a school event I was involved in, and instead of balloons we used paper pom-poms and I’ve seen painted rocks left in various areas,” she said.

There are a whole series of ways to be more water wise and those who are looking for more information are welcome to go to okwaterwise.ca.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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