Pollution prompts state to restrict shellfish harvesting

Part of Port Susan — the bay east of Camano Island — is closed, and other areas are deemed threatened.

OLYMPIA — State officials have closed part of Port Susan to commercial shellfish harvesting after an annual water-quality evaluation turned up high levels of pollution.

Officials said part of Port Susan — the bay between Camano Island and the mainland — does not meet public health standards. The state Department of Health is working with local partners and tribal governments to fix the problem.

The evaluation found a high level of fecal coliform bacteria near the mouth of the Stillaguamish River, said Scott Berbells, manager of the department’s shellfish growing area section. Before the new closure, 323 acres had already been restricted from commercial harvests. That will grow with the new closure, the size of which officials still need to determine.

The state also released a list of 18 shellfish harvest areas that meet water quality standards but are threatened with restrictions due to bacterial pollution. They include parts of the south Sound and coastal waters, as well as areas in Kitsap, Skagit and Whatcom counties.

People can help the situation by maintaining septic systems, picking up pet waste, using pump-out stations for boats and recreational vehicles, and managing animal waste from farms, according to the state.

The state Department of Health uses national standards to classify all 110 commercial harvest areas in Washington. Recreational harvesters can get up-to-date information on the state’s shellfish safety map: fortress.wa.gov/doh/biotoxin/biotoxin.html.

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