DEM extends shellfish closure in Mount Hope Bay

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) recently announced that conditionally-approved waters of Mount Hope Bay and the Kickemuit River will remain closed to shellfish harvesting. 

The closure will remain pending the outcome of water testing in the area. The bay and river will re-open at sunrise Thursday, Feb. 15, depending on the outcome of these tests.

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has also enacted a closure of Mount Hope Bay conditionally-approved waters in Massachusetts. Both the DEM Office of Water Resources and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries’ shellfish programs will collect water samples to test for fecal coliform bacteria prior to this scheduled re-opening.

The closure extension is due to a sewer line break and overflow that occurred as a result of emergency repairs that Bristol County Water Authority made to a water main in the vicinity of a sewer and drainage line in the Hopeworth Road area on Jan. 5.

DEM was notified by the town of Bristol on Wednesday, Jan. 24, shortly after the town was made aware of the incident. The discharge ended on Jan. 24 and repairs to the sewer line were completed in the early morning of Jan. 25.

The sewer line blockage and break allowed raw sewage to flow to a storm drain, and then to a stream that discharges to Mount Hope Bay near the Annawamscutt Road boat ramp.

During the time when the overflow went undetected, the January seasonal closure of the Kickemuit River was in effect and the Mount Hope Bay area was closed for eight days due to precipitation events.

The Rhode Island Department of Health has contacted licensed dealers in Rhode Island and has determined that no product entered the market from these waters. There are no Rhode Island commercial aquaculture operations currently located in these conditionally-approved waters.

Adjacent Massachusetts waters were also closed to shellfishing during this time period, and therefore no commercial product is in the Massachusetts market.

Closure information for Rhode Island waters is as follows:

The Kickemuit River and Mount Hope Bay south of a line from the range marker at the eastern extension of Patterson Avenue in the Laurel Park section of Warren to the flagpole on the opposite eastern shore on the property of #61 Asylum Road in Touisset.

The closure continues north and west of a line from Bristol Point to the Buoy “R4” channel marker located on the southerly side of the Mount Hope Bay channel, that intersects with a line from the DEM range marker located approximately midway on Touisset Point to the DEM range marker located in Common Fence Point in Portsmouth.

Maps depicting the closure areas may be seen here: http://www.dem.ri.gov/maps/mapfile/shellfsh.pdf and are described as GA 5-4 and GA 17-1 within the Notice of Polluted Shellfish Grounds May 2017.

A DEM investigation of the incident is underway. As previously noted, the town repaired the sewer line shortly after it was detected.

For more information on the sewer line break, contact Bristol Wastewater Treatment Facility Superintendent Jose DaSilva at 401-253-8877.

For more information about the shellfish closure in Rhode Island, contact Cindy Hannus in DEM’s Office of Water Resources at 401-222-4700, ext. 7241.

Closure information for Massachusetts waters is available at https://www.mass.gov/shellfish-sanitation-and-management. For more information about the shellfish closure in Massachusetts, contact Michael Hickey in the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries at (508) 990-2860 ext.122.

For information on emergency and conditional area shellfish closures, call DEM’s 24-hour shellfishing hotline at 401.222.2900.

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