State environmental officials on Tuesday announced the reopening of shellfish areas in central Barnegat Bay, but public clam beds and aquaculture lots in Raritan and southern Barnegat bays remain closed three months after superstorm Sandy.
Water quality in Barnegat Bay has actually been "quite good" since about Nov. 6 as daily sampling showed bacteria levels declining, said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. Tests of clams themselves have continued since then, and the DEP announced it would reopen shellfish areas from the Route 37 bridge south to Oyster Creek.
But the bay's southern third, from Waretown to Tuckerton, remains closed because clam tissue samples still show bacteria levels above strict standards set by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, a joint federal-state effort that ensures health safety in the shellfish industry.
Hajna said that does not mean pollution is coming into the bay, but that dormant clams have yet to expel what they picked up when Sandy churned bay waters and flushed pollutants off the land.
"It's really a function of time and temperature," Hajna said. "After the storm, the water temperature went to 50 degrees, and started going down."
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