Elevated Levels of Fecal Coliform Bacteria Found During Routine Water Quality Monitoring
Citing recent bacteriological surveys, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced emergency regulations to change the designation of underwater shellfish lands in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Shellfish harvesting will be closed or limited to particular months in approximately 1,844 acres of bays and harbors in Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip, Smithtown, Riverhead, Southampton, Southold, East Hampton and Oyster Bay to comply with state and national standards to protect public health.
Through the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP), states are required to conduct routine water quality sampling in shellfish harvesting areas. Failure by a state to comply with these national water quality monitoring protocols could lead to a prohibition on the sale of shellfish products in interstate commerce. DEC's analyses of water quality in these areas demonstrated increased levels of fecal coliform bacteria. The increased bacteria indicates that shellfish harvested from these areas has the potential to cause human illness if consumed. DEC staff will continue to evaluate sources of the bacteria contamination in an effort to resolve the issue.
Bacteria can enter the waters from a variety of human, animal, cesspool and storm water sources. DEC continues to work with the local governments in Nassau and Suffolk counties on major projects to improve water quality in the region, an effort that will reduce discharges of bacteria and nitrogen. DEC is also partnering with local leaders and stakeholders on the development of a "Nitrogen Action Plan" for Long Island. DEC will work with partners to track down the bacteria sources and oversee mandated local efforts to address illicit discharges of sewage into storm sewer systems.
DEC's emergency regulations will change the designation of the affected shellfish areas to "uncertified" (closed) for the harvest of shellfish (clams, mussels, oysters and scallops) either year-round or seasonally. These changes, effective immediately, are described below:
In the Town of Brookhaven: In Mt. Sinai Harbor, approximately 200 acres shall be reclassified as seasonally uncertified (closed) for the harvest of shellfish during the period May 1 through October 31.
In the towns of Brookhaven (north shore) and Smithtown: In Stony Brook Harbor, approximately 300 acres shall be reclassified from seasonally uncertified May 15 through October 31, to May 1 through December 31, for the harvest of shellfish.
In the towns of Brookhaven (north shore) and Riverhead: In Long Island Sound, approximately 72 acres shall be designated as uncertified for the harvest of shellfish year-round.
In the towns of Brookhaven (south shore) and Islip: In Patchogue Bay, approximately 1,028 acres shall be designated as seasonally uncertified (closed) for the harvest of shellfish during the period May 1 through September 30.
In the towns of Southold and Riverhead: In Great Peconic Bay, approximately 65 acres shall be designated as uncertified for the harvest of shellfish year-round. In the towns of Huntington and Oyster Bay: In Cold Spring Harbor, approximately 99 acres shall be designated as seasonally uncertified (closed) during the period May 1 through October 15, for the harvest of shellfish.
In the Town of Southampton: In Shinnecock Bay (Heady Creek), approximately 60 acres shall be designated as seasonally uncertified to the harvest of shellfish during the period May 1 to November 30.
In the Town of East Hampton: In Acabonac Harbor, approximately 20 acres shall be designated as uncertified for the harvest of shellfish year-round. DEC will continue to monitor water quality throughout New York's marine region as part of its participation in the NSSP. As conditions warrant, DEC will make changes to the certification of shellfish lands.
For more information about shellfish safety and New York's role in the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, visit DEC's website. The emergency regulations adopting the changes announced today are effective immediately and will be published in the November 4, 2015, edition of the New York State Register (link leaves DEC website.) The Emergency Regulation is available on DEC's website. Text descriptions and maps are available on DEC's website. Additional information may also be obtained by contacting DEC's Shellfisheries office at (631) 444-0492.