Closure of Sengekontacket Pond to shellfishing extended

Water quality data collected over the past five years shows that Sengekontacket Pond is improving.
Photo by Steve Myrick

Water quality data collected over the past five years shows that Sengekontacket Pond is improving.

Updated 11 am, Monday

More rain over the weekend has forced Oak Bluffs and Edgartown shellfish wardens to extend the closure of Sengekontacket Pond to shellfishing, first put in place Friday, July 12.

Rainfall in excess of 0.2 inches led to a closure for five days in order to comply with state regulations. Heavy rain again on Saturday forced shellfish wardens to restart the five day waiting period again.

“0.29 inches of rain had collected at the Hughes Hatchery Sunday morning, therefore starting the five day clock again,” Oak Bluffs shellfish warden David Grunden wrote in an email to town officials. “This means the pond will remain closed at least until Friday morning [July 19].”

The popular salt water pond is shared by the towns of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. Shellfish constables are required to close Sengekontacket Pond when rainfall amounts exceed a set limit.

In the past, state officials had ordered the pond closed to shellfishing all summer because of high levels of coliform bacteria. In 2012, for the first time in five summers, most of Sengekontacket Pond was open to shellfishing, except immediately after it rained.

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 in July when rainfall exceeds 0.2 inches. In August, the standard is more lenient. The pond must be closed when rainful exceeds one inch. In each case, the pond must remain closed to shellfishing for a minimum of five days.

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.

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.