The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control declared an emergency ban for recreational clamming and mussel harvest in Indian River Bay until Aug. 24.
It came after a pump station connected to the town of Millsboro’s sanitary sewer system failed today, discharging raw sewage into the Iron Branch, a tributary of the Indian River, which flows into the bay.
The closure does not affect the harvest of crabs, conch, and finfish. Oysters grown commercially under aquaculture leases in Rehoboth Bay are unaffected by the Indian River Bay closure. Recreational harvest of oysters is prohibited in Delaware.
The wastewater spill has potentially caused fecal contamination of shellfish in Indian River Bay, which according to National Shellfish Sanitation Program requirements, must be closed to bivalve shellfish harvest for 21 days to protect public health. The 21-day shellfish harvest closure is a federal guideline that gives bivalves time for natural cleansing.
DNREC also advises recreational water users to limit water contact in the upper Indian River Bay for the next few days, particularly in waters near the location of the spill.
The spill was stopped Wednesday afternoon. DNREC Division of Water staff is monitoring repairs at the Millsboro pump station. Delaware Fish and Wildlife Natural Resources Police working with the DNREC Delaware Shellfish Program, are patrolling and monitoring Indian River Bay to enforce the closure of the bay to recreational bivalve harvest and to ensure recreational clammers are aware of it.
More information about the closure and the Delaware Shellfish Program under DNREC authority can be found at de.gov/shellfish.