PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management announces that waters within Bristol Harbor and surrounding Hog Island are closed to shellfish harvesting effective immediately, until further notice. Specifically, all waters North and East of a line from the southern tip of Poppasquash Point in Bristol to Southwest Point on Hog Island, and from Southwest Point on Hog Island to the southwestern extremity of Arnold Point in Portsmouth, where a DEM range marker has been established, are closed to shellfish harvesting.
The closure is being enacted because of high flows and elevated bacteria levels measured in the Bristol Wastewater Treatment Facility and overflows from various pump stations throughout the collection system. The high plant flows and pump station overflows have occurred as a result of the heavy rains experienced earlier in the week. The Bristol Wastewater Treatment Facility (Bristol WWTF) is operated by the Bristol Water Pollution Control Department that has been working to identify and remove storm water and sump pump connections to the sanitary sewer system.
As required, Town officials notified DEM of problems with high flows and elevated bacteria levels from the Bristol WWTF beginning on Tuesday. DEM estimates that the four days of elevated flow and bacteria levels from the Bristol plant have exceeded the boundary of the established closed safety zone in Bristol Harbor and thus the need for today's emergency closure. The DEM will be collecting water samples for bacteria quality, and will make a determination as to when the area can be re-opened upon review of the sample results.
All aquaculturists in areas where emergency shellfish closures have been enacted will be allowed access to their leases to conduct necessary maintenance/retrieval of their equipment. All other activities on the aquaculture lease, including but not limited to the harvest of shellfish, will remain prohibited until the water quality is acceptable to allow for harvest. Aquaculturists that intend to conduct maintenance and/or retrieval of their equipment under this emergency authorization are required to notify Dave Beutel, CRMC's aquaculture coordinator by leaving a message at 783-3370.
DEM maintains a 24-hour shellfishing hotline with recorded updated information on shellfish closure areas. That number is 222-2900.