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VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH RECLASSIFIES PORTION OF LYNNHAVEN RIVER TO SHELLFISH HARVESTING
(RICHMOND, Va.)— The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced today that a portion* of the Lynnhaven River will be reclassified to allow shellfish harvesting except following a heavy rain event. The updated shellfish closure is effective May 22, 2013.
The revised closure represents a new method of classification of the Lynnhaven River shellfish areas. VDH began the development of data collection and review for “conditional management” of the Lynnhaven several years ago. Conditional management allows an area to be closed for short-term periods after predictable pollution events, such as a large rain event, rather than having to be closed year-round due to highly variable water quality readings. After an extensive review of the water quality monitoring data collected by VDH, a portion of the Lynnhaven River was found to qualify for the conditional status.
“Conditional management in this area provides superior public health protection by restricting harvest after a heavy rainfall, which is known to be associated with elevated bacterial contamination,” explained Robert Croonenberghs, PhD, director, VDH Division of Shellfish Sanitation, “but still allows the harvest of shellfish once the river system and the shellfish have returned to a safe condition.”
VDH will actively manage the area through a partnership with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, which will provide the daily rainfall totals in the Lynnhaven. When rainfall in a 24-hour period exceeds 1 inch, the conditional area will be placed in “closed status” for 10 days. This time period allows time for the water quality to return to normal and for shellfish to purge contaminants. VDH will continue to monitor the water quality to verify that these criteria have been met prior to reopening.
“We have experienced just such a rain event,” added Croonenberghs. “A rainfall total of 1.43 inches fell in the Lynnhaven River during the interval from 8:00 pm May 17 through 8:00 pm May 18, 2013. Since this total exceeds the 1” threshold, the conditional area will be placed in the closed status on May 22, with the expectation to open the conditional area on May 29, 2013. If an additional rainfall total of greater than 1 inch in a 24-hour interval occurs, the closure time period will be reset for 10 more days.”
The classification status of the Lynnhaven River will be available via a hot line message at 804-864-7182 as well as posted to the Division of Shellfish Sanitation’s home page at www.vdh.virginia.gov/Shellfish/.
*To view maps of the reclassified portion of the Lynnhaven River under a conditional closure, follow this link: http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/EnvironmentalHealth/shellfish/closure/cond070-025.pdf.