Ameren cautions against releasing mylar balloons in the open

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ST. LOUIS – The end of the school year means graduation parties at homes across the St. Louis area. But one particular party item could cause big problems for other homeowners, businesses, and power companies.

An Ameren Illinois official said the utility company is concerned about mylar balloons due to their metallic coating. If they are released outdoors, they can end up landing in powerlines and knock thousands of homeowners and business offline for hours.

“Don’t do a release of a bunch of balloons because they have to come down somewhere,” said George Justice, senior director of operations for Ameren Illinois.

But it still happens all the time. Whether it’s a festive occasion like somebody’s birthday or a solemn event to remember a loved one who has died, people like to release balloons into the air.

Ameren Illinois prefers that no one releases any balloons, especially the mylar ones.

“What it does it bridges between two wires or a wire and a ground up on our pole and causes an outage, causes a protective device, a fuse, a breaker, to blow just like it would in your home,” Justice said.

An Ameren worker has to restore the electricity. Last year, one mylar balloon knocked 3,000 customers offline in Metro East. The workers also have to clean up the melted balloons. They describe the sticky mess as similar to removing bubble gum from someone’s hair.

“After Valentine’s Day, (Ameren Illinois) had three outages in Metro East,” Justice said.

When the balloons no longer bring you joy, punch a hole in them and dispose of them properly.

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