Shellfish harvest closures extended on coast

Posted April 01, 2010, at 8:06 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:45 a.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A shellfish harvesting closure along most of Maine’s coast, from the New Hampshire border to Petit Manan Point in Washington County, is expected to last for at least a few more days, a state official said Thursday.

The closure was enacted March 24 because of heavy rains, according to Robert Goodwin, scientist at the Maine Department of Marine Resources laboratory in Lamoine. More than 2 inches of rain fell in eastern Maine on March 23, according to the National Weather Service, and the region has had nearly 2½ added inches of rain in the past few days. Heavy rains and resulting flooding can wash pollution from land into coastal waters.

Goodwin said the DMR lab has been conducting tests to determine when the large flooding closure can be rescinded.

“It’s a fairly common thing,” he said of such closures. “We hope it will be [lifted] in the near future.”

In addition to the flooding closure, DMR has enacted more specific closures in places where the heavy rains have caused pollution incidents. Ellsworth’s sewage treatment plant, which the city is in the process of replacing, often overflows into the Union River when heavy rains overwhelm the facility.

For this reason, DMR has closed Union River Bay, at the northern end of Blue Hill Bay, to shellfish harvesting for at least two weeks, or until testing indicates it can be opened again, Goodwin said. This closure is expected to continue even after the larger flooding closure from the New Hampshire border to Petit Manan Point has been lifted.

Other areas that have been closed because of possible sewage treatment overflows or other discharge concerns include parts of the Kennebec, St. George and Medomak rivers.

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