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Lawsuit filed over balloons released after Cornhuskers score; School says they are biodegradable

By Rebecca Campbell | Jun 6, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (Legal Newsline) – A Nebraska man has filed a lawsuit against the University of Nebraska, claiming that the school’s tradition of releasing thousands of red balloons into the air after its Cornhuskers football team scores litters the planet with pieces of latex and ribbon that are harmful to wildlife.

Randall Krause argues in his lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, that the mass balloon release, with no plan to recover them, amounts to solid waste disposal that is a detriment to wildlife.

“The mass release of Husker balloons puts virtually all species of birds, turtles, marine mammals, and small animals that live at the disposal site in harm’s way,” Krause said in his lawsuit. “There is no doubt that the mass balloon releases at Memorial Stadium cause or contribute to the taking of endangered or threatened wildlife.”

Krause has asked the court to declare that the mass balloon releases during football games at Memorial Stadium result in the open dumping of solid waste and is seeking a ban on the releases. He did not respond to requests by Legal Newsline for comment.

Steve Smith, a spokesman for the University of Nebraska who spoke to Legal Newsline, said that while the university is aware of a lawsuit filed regarding the fan tradition of releasing balloons at Memorial Stadium following the team’s first score, the school does not publicly discuss pending litigation.

“It is, however, worth noting that every balloon release in Memorial Stadium is natural latex biodegradable and that the balloons are tied off with 100 percent cotton strings,” Smith told Legal Newsline.

In his lawsuit, Krause argues that due to the prevailing winds the balloons have an eastward displacement and can travel hundreds of miles horizontally before reaching the altitudes where they pop. He adds that the 11-inch-diameter latex balloons are attached to poly ribbons that are approximately 4-feet long.

Krause states that it is the poly ribbons that are not biodegradable and represent a serious threat to wildlife through entanglement, listing 60 species of bats, birds, rodents and turtles that he says are threatened by balloons or strings.

“Birds, turtles and other wildlife have become entangled in balloon ribbons, and have been strangled, incapacitated, or lost limbs,” Krause said in his lawsuit.

In his court documents, Krause also asserts that children under the age of 8 can choke or suffocate on deflated or popped balloons.

Last June, Krause filed a lawsuit over the use of road salt in Omaha, seeking a declaration that the city of Omaha’s application of road salt applied to municipal roadways during winter weather events constitutes solid waste disposal. His case was dismissed.

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