Emergency closing of upper York River restricts oyster harvesting

Andrea blamed for sewage contamination

6/11/2013, 11:07 a.m.

The upper York River has been closed for shellfish harvesting following sewage overflows in West Point associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea. The closure is effective through June 29. The area is expected to reopen on June 30, according to the VDH Division of Shellfish Sanitation, which will monitor the shellfish to determine if the area can be reopened sooner.

A map of the affected area is posted on the Division of Shellfish Sanitation’s home page at www.vdh.virginia.gov/shellfish. The affected shellfish are bivalve mollusks including oysters and clams, but not crabs or fin fish.

State officials estimate that approximately 175,000 gallons of rainwater and sewage overflowed into the Mattaponi River, a tributary of the York River. This has the potential of microbiological hazards, thus shellfish taken from these areas are currently unacceptable for direct marketing. Ingesting shellfish taken from the upper York River at this time could cause gastrointestinal illnesses including Norovirus, Hepatitis A and Shigellosis.

Monitoring shellfish harvesting beds is an important means to protect the health of Virginians. The Division of Shellfish Sanitation watches shellfish beds after major storms to ensure that any shellfish harvested there do not contain pathogenic microbes that could make consumers of these shellfish ill.