BALTIMORE, MD (Sept. 18, 2006) – The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) effective today reclassified a portion of St. Jerome Creek, near the mouth of the creek, as open to shellfish harvesting, while closing sections that are upstream.
A recent evaluation of shellfish harvesting waters in St. Jerome Creek in St. Mary’s County show that water quality in portions of the creek currently meet the requirements under the National Shellfish Sanitation Program to reclassify the area from conditionally approved to approved for harvesting oysters and clams. This means that shellfish can be harvested at any time and St. Jerome Creek will no longer be subject to closure following a rainfall event of one inch or more within 24 hours.
“While MDE is pleased to reclassify the waters near the mouth of St. Jerome Creek are now open for shellfish harvesting, the law requires the department to close areas that do not meet the strict water quality standards necessary for shellfish harvesting waters,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “Closing sections upstream is necessary to prevent potential harmful effects from consumption of shellfish exposed to bacterial contamination. This action will assure the continuance of Maryland’s excellent reputation for wholesome shellfish products and maintain compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.”
Sections up stream of the open area will be reclassified as closed to shellfish harvesting. In December, 2005, MDE established several additional monitoring stations in St. Jerome Creek upstream of the area reclassified as approved and open for harvesting. To date, there are not enough data generated from our routine monitoring to classify the entire creek as approved. Therefore, the headwaters, portions of the Northern Prong, Taylor Cove, Malone Bay, and the Southern Prong will be reclassified from conditionally approved to restricted. MDE will continue to monitor and assesses the water quality from these areas and will reevaluate the water quality once enough data is gathered to determine if more of the creek should be reclassified to open to shellfish harvesting.
These closures impact molluscan shellfish harvesting (oysters and clams) only and do not apply to swimming, fishing, or crabbing in these areas.
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.
A map of the area affected by the closure is available electronically below.