N.J. closes shellfish beds after finding bacteria linked to stormwater

New Jersey officials have closed the state’s shellfish beds after finding elevated bacteria levels linked to stormwater runoff from Hurricane Irene.

Testing conducted by the state Department of Environmental Protection showed elevated bacteria levels in the water at several shellfish areas.

Many people are out of work because of the ban, said Steve Fleetwood, the manager of the Bivalve Packing Co. Inc. in Port Norris. Harvesting oysters and clams is his only business.

“I don’t know that I ever remember this being done. Of course I don’t remember anything quite this drastic happening as far as rain and runoff and everything so we understand what’s going on,” Fleetwood said. “There’s no excuse for jeopardizing public health to make money.”

State officials say once tests show the water quality is good for seven days, they’ll test shellfish tissue. If no bacteria are found, the beds will reopen for harvesting.

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