BALTIMORE (September 14, 1998) -- After a routine monitoring revealed unacceptable bacteria levels in the shellfish harvesting areas of the Wye River Watershed, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is closing parts of the river to shellfish harvesting. The areas include "conditionally approved" shellfish harvesting areas in the Wye East and Wye Narrows, and a portion of a previously approved areas in the headwaters of the Wye River. The closure will take effect on September 28. This action does not effect harvesting of finfish and crabs which may be taken in season, unless other advisories are in effect.
Portions of the Wye River were previously classified as conditionally approved which means that the areas were closed to shellfish harvesting for three days following one or more inches of rain in 24 hours. Bacterial water quality in parts of the Wye River have been found to exceed strict national standards for conditionally approved waters.
The Wye River Watershed is comprised of large homes on large lots, farms which include cattle, sheep, emu, cropland, woodland and rural communities, which are all contributing factors to stormwater runoff impacting shellfish water quality in the Wye River. In addition, there is a large population of wild geese in the vicinity. These factors, combined with two years of record rainfall and limited tidal flushing, have contributed to elevated fecal coliform levels in the Wye River.
Oysters and clams are filter feeders. They have the ability to filter the water around them to get their food from the various microscopic organisms found in the water column. If the water is polluted,
this filtering process can potentially include bacteria and viruses harmful to humans. Shellfish, which are often eaten raw or partially cooked, 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 harvesting of shellfish.
MDE is required to close areas that do not meet the strict water quality standards necessary for shellfish harvesting waters. This action will ensure continuance of Maryland's excellent reputation for wholesome seafood products and maintain compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.
For more information regarding the boundaries of the closure area, contact Lt. Randy Witter or Capt. Steve Vaughn of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police at (410) 260-8880. Department of Natural Resources Police personnel will be available daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.