On Tuesday, November 1, concerned citizens gathered at the Driftway in Scituate to protest the closure of the shellfish beds. November 1 is the date when the shellfish beds normally open. Senator Patrick O’Connor, Representative Patrick Joseph Kearney, and Representative David DeCoste were also in attendance to show their support for the reopening.
In the past, 606 acres of shellfish beds were open to recreational harvest in the North and South Rivers. The sit-in was organized to keep the pressure on the State’s Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) to reopen the shellfish beds.
As you may recall the state closed the shellfish beds due to new rules that we believe should only be applied to the commercial sale of shellfish. These new rules prohibit the sale of shellfish that comes from waters within a certain dilution area of a wastewater treatment plant. Those dilution areas were calculated based on studies not of our own rivers or the treatment plant but rather outside of our area that showed viruses were a potential concern from wastewater treatment effluent.
Recent discussions with the DMF indicate that they are hoping to be able to reopen approximately 60% of the shellfish bed area to recreational harvest again if current water tests of the wastewater effluent comes back as clean as they did from January – June of last year.
Recent testing conducted at the treatment plant by the DMF shows that the Scituate Wastewater Treatment plant is very good at reducing and for the most part eliminating viruses from the treated effluent. This is the good news and we should all take comfort in the plant’s effectiveness with treating viruses because we all demanded the best treatment available.
The not so good news is that the state still wants to have a closure area around the plant – albeit a much smaller one. Unfortunately, that means that some of our shellfish beds that are accessible from shore like the area behind the Spit may not be reopened. Only areas outside of a 300:1 dilution area will be reopened and largely those areas are only accessible to the public by boat.
The state should be able to reopen 60% of the shellfish beds with the new dilution study and if sampling of the treatment plant effluent continues to come back clean. We are hoping to be able to get that dilution area further reduced if the samples from the treatment plant remain consistently low. In addition, we are going to examine the dilution studies and the assumptions that they are based on that estimate the volume of water coming in and out of the rivers as well as any legal or policy avenues that may help reopen that remaining 40% that still will remain closed. For now, we want you to keep letting our state officials know how important this activity is to you – and that you want them to push to find ways to reopen behind the Spit to allow for those who don’t have a boat to have access to their natural heritage. Your voices matter. Without them we would not have been able to get the state to put their resources into the studies that we have had thus far and the reopening. Continue to let them know that We Want to Shellfish!
Our philosophy has always been that if there is pollution (which we are not finding) then the polluter is responsible for cleaning it up instead of the public’s natural resources being denied them.