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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
4/4/03

Contact: Jack Kaskey
609-984-1795

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 spill.

"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 public health.

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 safe.

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 available.

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.

 

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