Mussel harvest halted after rains and sewage spill, but safety is assured
SCOTT HAMMOND / STUFF
Muddy waters at Havelock Marina after flooding on Saturday. A sewer spill in the Havelock Estuary has raised concerns about the safety of seafood raised in the Marlborough Sounds.
Mussel harvests in the Marlborough Sounds could be shut down for several weeks following heavy rains and flooding in the area.
Clearwater Mussels co-owner John Young gave the assurance on Wednesday following concerns about the contamination of seafood after sewage spilled into the Havelock estuary over the weekend.
The company currently operates 90 green mussel farms in the upper South Island.
“We could be closed for a month at Kenepuru Sounds or in the lower Pelorus if the rain continues to accumulate and trigger the level of bacteria,” he said.
* ‘Plastic beaches’ fear if pollution from Marlborough Sounds mussel farms is not reduced
* Mussels to be poured on the reef of mussel shells to revive the “devastated” population
* Marlborough Sounds mussels fatten up with toxic algae as harvest is pushed back
He explained that the mussels filter water and silt and are sometimes used to clean contaminated areas. “Mussels are amazing creatures in that they are just big pumps,” he said.
“Keep in mind that bacteria cannot survive once they are mixed with salt water. By the time we are open to harvest in this part of the world, any contamination will be long gone. “
“The environment itself is wonderful for diluting, dissipating and killing bacteria,” he said.
Marlborough District Council informed residents on Tuesday that a sewer pipe in Havelock along Mahakipawa Road leading to oxidation ponds had been damaged during flooding.
Repairs were completed on Sunday evening, but not before sewage poured into the floodwaters and the Kaituna estuary. People were advised to stay out of the water for at least two days to allow the contaminants to dissipate.
Residents were also advised to refrain from swimming, paddling, fishing, or collecting seashells or any other food from the sea and rivers.
The general manager of the Marine Farming Association, Ned Wells, also assured that the mussels sold in supermarkets would be “absolutely good”.
“Marlborough has a world-class shellfish quality program that conducts sampling throughout the year and provides information on areas in which it is safe to harvest,” Wells said.
Harvest closures were currently in place at most Marlborough Sounds Wells, and would be lifted after a period of insufficient rain. Some harvest areas may experience delays in reopening.
The Marine Shellfish Quality Program (MSQP) operates two river flow meters, six rain gauges and a marine detection buoy that transmits real-time information on precipitation, river levels and salinity to a central database and monitoring system. report every 15 minutes.
This data is used to determine when crop areas are opened and closed for harvest.
NZ King Salmon General Manager Grant Rosewarne was unaware of the contamination and expressed concern that he was not informed.
“We are going to the nth degree to test everything,” he said. “We’re right at the outer limit of the Sounds. If it’s in Havelock, it’s going to be so watered down by the time it gets to where we are, it would be really rare to find anything.
“We would watch it, and if anything came up, we would stop harvesting until it was cleared up. Never in our history have we had to stop for something like this, ”he said.
Stephen Rooney, operations and maintenance engineer at Marlborough District Council, said any sampling he could do would only be around the estuary environment and very close to Havelock, and no would not affect what is in the outside sounds where the farms are located.
Spill notifications had been sent to New Zealand’s food safety authority, Rooney said, and the council relied on them to pass the information on to affected parties.