DEP Re-Opens 6,000 Acres
of Shellfish Beds Closed After Sewage Spill
Ban on Clam Relaying Activities Remains in Effect
(03/48) TRENTON - - The Department
of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced more than
6,000 acres of shellfish beds will re-open Saturday in Sandy
Hook Bay, the Navesink River, and the Shrewsbury River for
harvesting clams that are brought to depuration plants.
Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell had closed
the beds March 3 due to impacts from the Sayreville sewage
"Sandy Hook Bay contains some of the
state's most productive shellfish areas, so we expedited
the testing of those beds in order to help the baymen idled
by last month's sewage spill," Campbell said. "We
are re-opening these beds based on testing that show clams
in these waters meet federal safety guidelines that are
the most protective of public health."
To ensure public health and safety, the
DEP initiated a three-tier reopening plan for the shellfish
beds that required testing for fecal coliform and potential
viral and metal contamination in shellfish tissue. All three
testing criteria have been met for waters that are being
re-opened. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has agreed
that the re-opening plan is appropriately protective of
Test results show no indication for viral
contaminants in shellfish tissue, and metal levels were
below FDA safety guidelines. Five consecutive water-monitoring
tests indicate levels of fecal coliform in the affected
harvesting areas have returned to normal and are deemed
However, metal testing has not yet been
completed for Raritan Bay and a small section of Sandy Hook
Bay, so these waters are not yet open. Test results are
expected back in two weeks.
Relay and depuration programs will be discontinued
in the Shark River, because more productive waters are now
In response to a separate issue relating
to New Jersey's shellfish beds, the DEP is continuing its
temporary ban on shellfish relaying activities in the Raritan
and Sandy Hook bays. This ban does not affect harvesting
activities that use the depuration plants.
On March 13, the New York State Department
of Environmental Conservation suspended its transplant program
because of a parasitic hard-clam disease, Quahog Parasite
Unknown (QPX), found in shellfish beds off Staten Island
in New York's section of Raritan Bay.
While QPX kills hard clams, it is not harmful
to consumers who might eat infected clams.
The DEP has taken numerous tissue samples
from clams in Raritan and Sandy Hook bays and sent them
to the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences for analysis.
Expedited test results are anticipated soon. In the interim,
relay harvesting in New Jersey will be permitted in waters
of the Manasquan River.