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Contact: Amy Cradic

DEP Shellfish Bed Closure Update

(03/36) TRENTON - - The DEP closure order for shellfish beds in the Raritan Bay, Sandy Hook Bay, Navesink River and Shrewsbury River issued by Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell on March 3, 2003 remains in effect.

Based on the magnitude of the Sayreville sewage spill and on concerns raised over metal and viral contamination, the DEP is taking a phased approach to re-opening the shellfish beds. The three-tier reopening plan has the FDA's support and approval, and is based on ensuring public health and safety.

"The good news is that levels of fecal coliform in the affected harvesting areas have returned to normal and that test results show no indication of viral contaminants in the shellfish," said DEP Commissioner Campbell. "However, to safeguard public health, the harvesting areas will remain closed until additional sampling results for heavy metals have been completed and deemed safe."

The DEP's reopening plan for shellfish beds to again allow harvesting based on human health standards requires the following:

  • Five consecutive sampling results that show fecal coliform levels remain below the FDA health-based standard of 88 parts of fecal coliform per 100 milliliters;
  • Heavy metal levels in shellfish tissue are within FDA guidelines; and that
  • Levels of a viral indicator (coliphage) in shellfish tissue samples are acceptable.

To date, the reopening plan sampling result requirements for fecal coliform levels and the viral indicator coliphage have been met. Levels of these contaminants are below concentrations deemed safe for human consumption. However, metal levels continue to be monitored.

The DEP is evaluating samples and conducting additional tests for metal levels in shellfish tissue. EPA Region 2 is helping to expedite the testing, which will include tests for arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and nickel. Criteria for these metals will be based on values set by the FDA.

Waters in the Navesink River and Shrewsbury River that are seasonally approved for harvesting will remain closed through April.



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Last Updated: July 14, 2010