Sengekontacket Pond to reopen to shellfishing Friday

Birds that nest on a small island in the middle of Sengekontacket Pond are one source of bacteria, according to studies. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Updated 10:35 am, August 9.

Sengekontacket Pond will reopen for shellfishing Friday, August 10, at 7 am, according to Edgartown shellfish constable Paul Bagnall.

The popular salt water pond is shared by the towns of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. Shellfish constables closed Sengekontacket Pond on July 29 because of heavy rainfall the day before. Signs were posted around the pond perimeter to alert the public.

Mr. Bagnall said results of water samples taken August 7 indicate shellfish taken from the pond are safe to eat.

“We can stay open until we get another inch of rain,” Mr. Bagnall said Thursday morning.

Following a series of past summer shellfish closures, under a new agreement with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), shellfish wardens in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs are required to close the pond to shellfishing when rainfall exceeds one inch. In that case, the pond can be reopened in five days.

But on July 28, state officials measured the rainfall at 2.35 inches. Under the agreement, when rainfall exceeds two inches, the pond has to be closed until testing shows the bacteria counts in the water indicate that shellfish taken from the pond is safe to eat.

The request for testing went to state officials on July 29. Mr. Bagnall said the state did not test the water until August 7. The samples were sent off-Island for processing.

The detailed agreement to close the pond after a rainfall comes after DMF ordered the pond closed to all shellfishing entirely during summer months over the past five years.

Typically, harmful bacteria increases after rainfall, because animal feces washes from roadways and beaches into the pond. Clams can accumulate the bacteria, which can cause nausea, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea. The symptoms can be more severe among people with weaker immune systems.

The bacteria is not harmful to swimmers.