BALTIMORE, MD (March 11, 2003) -- The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has determined by appropriate investigation that areas in the Miles River classified as approved or restricted prior to the emergency closure on Feb. 23 can return to their previous classification. All waters of the Miles River above Deep Water Point classified as approved or restricted prior to the emergency closure can return to their previous classifications effective today, March 11, 2003. A map of the re-opened areas is attached.
MDE closed the shellfish harvesting waters on Feb. 23 because of a significant sewage spill. Heavy rains and melting snow disrupted operations at the St. Michael’s Wastewater Treatment Facility starting Feb. 21. Excess water began entering the collection system on Saturday, Feb. 22 overloading the system’s capacity sending as much as two million gallons of partially treated sewage into the Miles River. Operations at the facility returned to normal last Friday. Currently all flows into the plant are at normal levels and are adequately being treated. No part of the treatment process is being by-passed. Samples collected last week show that bacterial discharge limits are being met.
Shellfish (oysters and 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.