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Tainted shellfish concerns close portion of Rappahannock River

A portion of the Rappahannock River will be closed to shellfish harvesting due to flooding, the Virginia Department of Health announced Saturday, because animal and human waste may have tainted the bivalves.

The emergency closure is effective June 23 through July 13, although the area may be reopened earlier if water quality monitoring results indicate that the area is no longer unsafe.

Maps of the affected areas are posted on the Division of Shellfish Sanitation’s home page. The affected shellfish are bivalve mollusks including oysters and clams, but not crabs or finfish.

Another bout of heavy rainfall in portions of Virginia caused flooding in the Rappahannock River basin that may have washed animal waste and human sewage into the river. Due to potential microbiological and chemical pollution hazards, shellfish taken from areas affected by the emergency closure are currently unacceptable for consumption.

Monitoring shellfish beds for these hazards after flooding ensures that seafood harvested does not contain harmful substances that may make shellfish consumers ill.

“These flooding events are reminders for all Virginians to be prepared as we enter the 2018 hurricane season,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “Being prepared for severe weather before it arrives can keep you and your family safe and healthy.”

Ingesting shellfish taken from the closed areas at this time could cause gastrointestinal illnesses including norovirus, hepatitis A and shigellosis.

For more information on shellfish closures, see the frequently asked questions on shellfish condemnations, here.