BALTIMORE, MD (March 28, 2012) – The Maryland Department of the Environment has closed the mouth of the Patapsco River and a nearby portion of the Chesapeake Bay to shellfish harvesting. The closure, which took effect today and is to remain in effect until further notice, was issued due to a sewage spill from a pumping station in the Baltimore Highlands area of Baltimore County.
MDE received a report from Baltimore County of a break in a 54-inch sewer main Sunday at the sewage pumping station east of Old Annapolis Road. The line carries an estimated 17 million gallons of sewage a day. Repairs on the broken line are continuing. Health officials in Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County issued notices regarding water contact for a portion of the Patapsco River.
MDE determined that an area in the mouth of the Patapsco River and a nearby portion of the Chesapeake Bay normally open to shellfish harvesting will be closed. The affected area is downstream of a line running northeasterly from Rock Point to North Point and west of a line running southeasterly from North Point to the Brewerton Eastern Extension Lighted Buoy 10, and then to Seven Foot Knoll Light, to Craighill Channel Lighted Buoy 18, southwesterly to Craighill Channel Lighted Buoy 16, east to the Craighhill Entrance Channel Range Rear Light then continuing east to a point of land near Shore End Downs Fishing Pier south of Pinehurst on the Anne Arundel County shore. The area was determined based on the tracking of sewage during a previous spill.
Other areas of the Patapsco River -- including the area where sewage has entered the waterway this week -- have been closed to harvesting since the 1960s. The nearest areas that are normally open to shellfish harvesting are more than 12 miles from the overflow location.
Information on shellfish harvesting areas is available on the Maryland Department of the Environment’s website. These designations apply only to the harvesting of shellfish (oysters and clams); they do not apply to fishing or crabbing. Consumption advisories for recreationally caught fish and crabs can also be found on MDE’s website.
Shellfish are filter feeders with the ability to 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.
This closure is necessary to protect public health by preventing harvest from the area impacted and ensure Maryland remains in compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.