DNREC Secretary David Small issued an emergency order Feb. 7 suspending commercial and recreational shellfish harvest of oysters, clams and mussels in the Delaware Bay after a spill from a Kent County sewage pumping station.

In a press release, DNREC officials said the spill in Dover discharged hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated wastewater into the St. Jones River Tuesday and an unknown amount of untreated wastewater was carried downstream by an outgoing tide.

The harvest will be closed for 21 days after the wastewater discharge has been halted. While the spill continues, DNREC also advised residents not to use the St. Jones River from Silver Lake in Dover to Bowers.

DNREC also ordered Kent County’s public works department to increase  monitoring of the river for bacteria and organics until water quality returns to pre-spill conditions. Kent County continues to make repairs as quickly as possible, and has been cooperating fully with DNREC and working with water users to try and reduce flows from the sanitary sewage system during repairs.

The spill occurred when the repair of a force main near Magnolia caused an overflow at the Dover pump station. It was reported Feb. 7 to DNREC by Kent County’s public works department.

An earlier but smaller spill reported last week occurred in conjunction with the same force main repair.

The DNREC emergency order stated: "Currently there is no commercial oyster harvest occurring in the Delaware Bay and little-to-no recreational harvest occurs this time of year.

"Due to the health risks associated with untreated wastewater, the Delaware Bay will be placed under an emergency shellfish harvesting closure to protect public health.

"This shellfish closure only impacts the harvest of bivalve molluscan shellfish (clams, oysters and mussels), and does not affect the legal harvest of other shellfish species such as crabs and conchs."

The emergency order is online at http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/Info/Pages/SecOrders_Regulations.aspx.