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Heavy rain forces emergency closure of several shellfish areas after combined sewer overflows discharges



PROVIDENCE, RI — The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management is announcing that several shellfish areas in Narragansett Bay and Point Judith Pond are closed due to excessive rain received in the Providence area on Sunday of this week. Lower Providence River conditional area E, Upper Narragansett Bay Area A, Greenwich Bay, Mount Hope Bay, the Kickemuit River, and Point Judith Pond conditional areas all are closed to shellfish harvest and scheduled to reopen at sunrise on Monday, July 24. Also, Upper Narragansett Bay Area B was closed at noon today and is scheduled to reopen at sunrise on Monday July 24.

Heavy rain received in Rhode Island yesterday led to these shellfish closures. TF Green Airport received 3.35 inches of rain in 24 hours and other local stations reported up to 4 inches of rain. This excess rain caused heavy runoff and caused several CSO (combined sewer overflows) discharges. This 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 7 days after the excessive rainfall. DEM will be confirming these background bacteria levels with sampling later this week. July 2023 has been unusually wet, with 7.1 inches of rain received thus far this month. This is nearly 5 times the usual July rainfall of 1.5 inches at the airport.

DEM, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), 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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