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After sewage spill, parts of James River closed to shellfish harvesting

Parts of the James River near Newport News, Isle of Wight, Suffolk and Portsmouth are still considered contaminated. This means no clams or oysters can be harvested.
Credit: Dominion Energy

RICHMOND, Va. — Friday, the Virginia Department of Health extended a ban on harvesting shellfish from parts of the James River, after a sewage spill affected the waterway on Jan. 4.

Initially, there had been an emergency ban on collecting oysters and clams from Jan. 5 through Jan. 25 - but it was extended to last through Wednesday, Feb. 3.

"Oyster sampling efforts made in an attempt to support an early reopening were unsuccessful and these results require an extension of the emergency closure duration," a spokesperson wrote.

If people eat contaminated shellfish, they could experience gastrointestinal sicknesses like norovirus, hepatitis A and shigellosis.

The ban does not apply to crabs or fin fish.

A release from the Virginia Department of Health said bacteria levels in the James River have mostly returned to normal, but they're paying close attention to "creeks, inlets, or canals where there is low flushing of water" and beaches near the Newport News spill.

That day, the wastewater was leaking near 16th Street, between Garden Drive and Walnut Avenue. The VDH recommends extra caution at any shorelines near that area, too.

You can find a map of the areas where shellfish harvesting was banned here.