Heavy rain forces emergency closure of shellfish areas in Narragansett Bay

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management announced Tuesday that several shellfish areas in Narragansett Bay are closed due to excessive rain in the Providence metropolitan area Sept. 5-6. Upper Narragansett Bay area A, Upper Narragansett Bay area B, and Lower Providence River area E are closed to shellfishing and are scheduled to reopen at 12 PM on Friday, Sept. 16. Also Greenwich Bay, Mount Hope Bay, the Kickemuit River, the West Middle Bay shellfish area (GA9), and the East Middle Bay shellfish area (GA3) are closed to shellfishing until 12 PM on Tuesday, Sept. 13. The emergency closures include waters of Narragansett Bay north of a line running from approximately Quonset Point in North Kingstown to the northern tip of Conanicut Island (Jamestown) to the southern tip of Prudence Island to Carr Point in Portsmouth.

The monitoring station at TF Green Airport measured nearly 3.5 inches of rain yesterday and today, with more localized totals of 4 to 8 inches in the Providence area in less than 24 hours. The excessive rain caused heavy runoff and several combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges. The runoff can convey bacterial contaminants to Narragansett Bay, prompting the shellfish closure. Previous water quality observations indicate that the bacteria levels in the bay will return to normal, safe background levels within 7 to 10 days after the excessive rainfall. DEM will be confirming these background levels with sampling later this week and early next week.

DEM, the Rhode Island Department of Health, and the RI Coastal Resources Management Council, along with industry partners, collaborate to ensure that shellfish grown and harvested from Rhode Island waters continues to be a quality safe seafood product to be enjoyed by all consumers. This is achieved by diligent monitoring of shellfish harvesting waters to protect public health. This monitoring enables a quick response when conditions indicate a change in water quality due to natural events such as algae blooms or unusual weather events.



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