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DEM: Avoid shellfish from Point Judith, Winnapaug Ponds

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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Michael King doesn’t go quahogging often, but when he does, he has a favorite little place in Point Judith Pond.

“I can shoot over after work when it’s low tide and get a few for the weekend,” King said.

For the time being, King will have to stay away from shellfish in the area.

The R.I. Departments of Health and Environmental Management are warning consumers to avoid shellfish harvested from two areas in the state: the northern half of Point Judith Pond and Winnapaug Pond.

Both areas are temporarily closed to commercial and recreational shellfishing and health officials issued recalls of shellfish after water samples collected late last week showed high bacteria counts that could lead to gastroenteritis. Symptoms of gastroenteritis include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Anything harvested since last Tuesday, July 23, should be thrown away.

Last week’s heavy rain is to blame, according to DEM spokesperson Mike Healey.

“When there are real deluges like that, the rain doesn’t have anywhere to go,” he explained. “It just picks up anything and everything that’s on the streets. All that stuff goes down into a torrent and it finds its way into water bodies.”

“If that water is compromised, you don’t want to be shellfishing, fishing in it,” Healey continued. “You don’t want to be eating anything that you’ve caught or harvested from it.”

At Gardner’s Wharf Seafood in Wickford, it is business as usual. The seafood market did not have any of the recalled shellfish so they didn’t have to toss any of their products.

“No problems, no concerns at this point,” Kerri Pendergast said. “Our shellfish is coming through the back door. We’re double-checking, we’re making sure that we’re right on target with the laws.”

Greg Silkes, the general manager of American Mussel Harvesters, said the company threw away some quahogs that were harvested Friday after being notified of the recall.

“Fortunately for us, this one didn’t really affect us,” Silkes said. “The biggest cost is the negative outlook on shellfish.”

The DEM collected new water samples Monday. Results are expected by Wednesday, which is the earliest the areas could reopen to shellfishing, according to Healey.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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