Thursday, 3 November 2011

Morecambe Bay Shellfish beds closed after sewage concerns

Local shellfish beds have been closed after United Utilities' outfall pipe from Morecambe’s wastewater treatment works at Middleton became inoperable due to sandbank movement.

As a result an old outfall system, used as a storm overflow, is being used which means that screened, but untreated, sewage is being discharged into Morecambe Bay. The outfall is situated about a mile out to sea in the sea channel opposite Regent Road in Morecambe.

Lancaster City Council say their primary concern now is to ensure that the health and safety of the general public is protected and are warning  people not eat recently-harvested shellfish.

"We are working with the Health Protection Agency and the Environment Agency - who are the regulatory body for wastewater discharges - to closely monitor the situation.

"Following expert advice from the Food Standards Agency and Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science), we have taken the decision to close the mussel beds along our coastline as a precautionary measure."

Public notices have been posted at access points to the mussel beds to this effect. Anybody who has gathered shellfish from Morecambe Bay or the Lune Estuary since Sunday is advised not to consume them and to contact Environmental Health on 01524 582936 for advice.

The council is not aware of anything to indicate that there are any wider health risks to people using the shore and beaches in Morecambe Bay, although normal hygiene precautions such as hand washing are being advised.

Councillor Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “The wider effects of this incident both in the short and medium term are currently unclear and Lancaster City Council is calling on United Utilities and the Environment Agency to do all they can to speedily resolve the problem, which we understand may continue for some weeks.

“It is also important that a full and thorough investigation takes place into the causes of this incident and that there are appropriate plans and procedures in place in the future to ensure it does not occur again.”

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