South Carolina

Oysters are natural filters. Raw sewage just coated these beds in SC a second time this year

Not a fan of raw oysters, this is how you steam them

Larry Toomer, owner of the Bluffton Oyster Co., shares his tips for cooking the perfect steamed oyster during the Bluffton Oyster Roast in January 2018.
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Larry Toomer, owner of the Bluffton Oyster Co., shares his tips for cooking the perfect steamed oyster during the Bluffton Oyster Roast in January 2018.

A sewage spill near Charleston has shut down oyster and clam beds around the city as South Carolina’s traditional oyster roast season gets into full swing, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

A sewage leak on the Ashley River in North Charleston means the shellfish beds from Folly Road, south of the city, up to Charleston Harbor, will be closed until the pollution clears, DHEC said in a press release Wednesday.

This is the second sewage spill this year to shut down Charleston’s oyster and clam beds. In February, 2.4 million gallons of wastewater spilled into a marsh near Charleston, according to a story in the Island Packet earlier this year.

Shellfish beds were closed for weeks and oysters had to be recalled just before the start of the 2018 Charleston Wine and Food Festival, the newspaper reported.

There's not a big difference between mariculture oysters, which are grown in cages, and those that are wild-caught, Al Stokes, the director of the Waddell Mariculture Center in Bluffton, said Jan. 9, 2017, when asked about the prospect, and safety

This week’s closure is not as big as the one in February. “The affected area will reopen once water quality data indicates that bacteria levels are once again suitable for shellfish harvesting,” Mike Pearson, manager of DHEC’s Shellfish Sanitation Section, said in a press release.

The North Charleston Sewer District announced Nov. 1 that it was working to repair a sewer leaking into a marsh near the Ashley River, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.

The rivers behind Folly Beach, some of which are impacted by the closure, are one of the main areas for oyster harvesting around Charleston, according to the newspaper.

After the spill in February, state officials said the wastewater could contaminate shellfish and make people sick, according to the Associated Press.

Hurricane floodwater often harbors harmful bacteria, most notably Vibrio vulnificus. If contracted, it can lead to serious infection or death.

Charles Duncan: 843-626-0301, @duncanreporting
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