BALTIMORE, MD (November 1, 2002) – Based upon a recent evaluation of shellfish harvesting areas in tributaries to the St. Mary’s and Patuxent Rivers which showed unacceptable bacteria levels, the Maryland Department of the Environment is closing portions of the conditionally approved areas in the St. Inigoes Creek and Carthegena Creek (tributaries to St. Mary’s River) and Cuckhold Creek (tributary to Patuxent River). This closure -- effective Nov. 4, 2002 -- will impact shellfish harvesting only and does not apply to swimming, fishing, or crabbing in these areas.
“The Department is required to close areas that do not meet the strict water quality standards necessary for shellfish harvesting waters, which includes assessing potential pollution sources identified by conducting shoreline surveys,” said MDE Secretary Richard F. Pecora. “This action will assure the continuance of Maryland's excellent reputation for wholesome shellfish products and maintain compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.”
An evaluation of pollution sources along the effected waterways did not identify a specific source of the unacceptable levels of bacteria. Potential sources of bacteria include runoff following rain events, the proximity of marinas and boat docks and communities that are served by individual onsite septic systems.
Shellfish (oysters & clams) are filter feeders. They have the ability to filter the water around them and get food from the myriad of microscopic organisms found in the water column. If the waters are polluted, this filtering process can potentially include viruses or bacteria harmful to humans. 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.