The Chickahominy Report

News about Earth, Atmosphere, Water, and Life

Flooding leads to closure of shellfish harvesting in two Va. rivers

James River closure area

Por­tion of the James Riv­er affect­ed by emer­gency clo­sure of shell­fish harvest.

MECHANICSVILLE, Va. — The Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Health has closed por­tions of two Vir­ginia rivers to shell­fish har­vest­ing because of poten­tial pol­lu­tion in flood­wa­ters trig­gered by heavy rains in west­ern Virginia.

The affect­ed rivers are the James and Rap­pa­han­nock. All of the low­er James Riv­er, from the vicin­i­ty of Hog Point in Hog Island State Wildlife Man­age­ment Area to the vicin­i­ty of the Mon­i­tor-Mer­ri­mac Memo­r­i­al Bridge-Tun­nel is closed. The closed por­tion of the Rap­pa­han­nock extends from the vicin­i­ty of Acco­pa­tough Beach in Rich­mond Coun­ty down to a line between Monaskon in Lan­cast­er Coun­ty and Stove Point in Mid­dle­sex County.

The emer­gency clo­sures apply only to bivalve mol­lusks — such as oys­ters, mus­sels, and clams. Crus­taceans, such as crabs, and fin fish are not affected.

The clo­sures went into effect on Jan­u­ary 27. Michelle Pere­goy, a spokesper­son for the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Health, said the clo­sures are expect­ed to remain in force for at least two weeks.

Rappahannock River closure area

Por­tion of the Rap­pa­han­nock Riv­er affect­ed by emer­gency clo­sure of shell­fish harvest.

When heavy rains fall in west­ern Vir­ginia, there is a poten­tial for runoff laden with chem­i­cal pol­lu­tion and ani­mal and human waste. Fil­ter-feed­ing organ­isms, such as bivalves, tend to con­cen­trate pol­lu­tants and pathogens in their tis­sues and make it eas­i­er for humans who eat the shell­fish to get poi­soned or ill afterward.

Pere­goy said the pri­ma­ry con­cern is that the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed runoff may car­ry pathogens that cause a num­ber of water-borne dis­eases. Those of par­tic­u­lar con­cern are hepati­tis a virus, norovirus, Sal­mo­nel­la, and Shigel­la.

The emer­gency clo­sures will remain in effect until test­ing indi­cates that it is safe to resume the harvest.

— David M. Lawrence

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