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Department of the Environment Issues Precautionary, Temporary Closure to Shellfish Harvesting in Small Portion of the Chesapeake Bay

As a precaution due to a sewage overflow, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) today issued an order temporarily closing a small portion of the Chesapeake Bay to shellfish harvesting until January 10. About 10,400 acres of the bay directly off of Baltimore City and Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties are being temporarily reclassified to restrict shellfish harvesting in the area. The order, which expands an area already closed to shellfish harvesting east and south of Hart-Miller Island, was issued as a precaution after an estimated volume of the sewage overflow in Baltimore County provided to MDE yesterday showed a potential impact on shellfish waters downstream in the bay.

Baltimore County notified MDE a couple of weeks ago because of an overflow to Muddy Gut, a small tributary to Back River. That location is not considered shellfish waters. Due to the location of the spill, it was difficult to assess and estimate the volume of the discharge. As of yesterday, a conservative estimate was provided by the County showing potentially more than two million gallons were lost to surface waters in Muddy Gut.

Shellfish are filter feeders that filter water and get food from microscopic organisms in the water. If the waters are polluted, this filtering process can concentrate disease-causing organisms associated with raw sewage and other sources, such as animal waste. Oysters and clams are often eaten raw or partially cooked and must come from waters that are not polluted. MDE monitors bacteriological water quality and conducts pollution source surveys to determine which areas are safe for the harvesting of shellfish.

 

Photo: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

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