Back River reopens to shellfish harvesting after sewage leak

Posted at 7:06 PM, Jun 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-12 15:27:39-04

UPDATE: Sample data collected by the Division of Shellfish Sanitation have confirmed that impacted the area is safe to reopen.  The closure of the area that became effective on June 4, 2015 is rescinded effective immediately.

Hampton, Va. - It's a popular place to catch shellfish, but for the next month, folks on the Back River will have to fish elsewhere.

Just north of the Langley Air Force Base, the river has been condemned for shellfish harvesting.

The reason—a sewage leak.

A map from The Virginia Department of Health shows the northwest corner of the Back River.

"Volume was about 30,000 gallons. The spill duration was about 50 minutes."

The health department says condemnation is only for shellfish, other fishing in the river is safe.

"Oysters are filter feeders so they don't discriminate between normal bacteria and pathogenic bacteria. It’s all food to them."

However that bacteria from the waste won't hurt the ecosystem or the shellfish.

"The diseases we worry about with human sewage pollution is really harmless to the oysters. They will filter those out and in some cases, they will accumulate the bacteria in their gut until they flush.

The health department will test samples of the water and shellfish next week.

They say the condemnation is in effect until June 25th, but could be lifted sooner.