Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (May 27, 2005) --The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) has determined by appropriate investigation that the emergency closure of shellfish harvesting in the Wicomico River, in Charles County can be lifted. All the waters of the Wicomico River classified as approved prior to the emergency closure on April 8 can return to their previous classifications effective May 30, 2005. This reopening affects the harvesting of clams and oysters only. Crabbing and fishing were not impacted by this emergency closure.

“Based on appropriate investigation and reports received from MDE field personnel, the decision was reached to end the emergency closure,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “Updated water quality information indicates that concerns with operations at the Cobb Island Waste Water Treatment Facility have returned to normal.”

Following recent inspections by MDE’s Compliance Program, there is now sufficient free board in the Breeze Farm lagoons to withstand a fairly substantial rainfall. In addition, the recent drier weather has helped to dry out the spray irrigation fields. MDE does not anticipate the need for a surface discharge anytime in the near future. Therefore, MDE will reopen the area impacted by the temporary discharge to shellfish harvesting waters.

Heavy rains disrupted operations at the Cobb Island Wastewater Treatment Facility. This facility normally utilizes spray irrigation from lagoons. This emergency closure was due to the need for the Breeze Farm lagoon, associated with the treatment facility, to discharge partially treated effluent from the holding lagoon to shellfish waters in Neale Sound.

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.

Notice of Opening to Shellfish Harvesting