Confirmed reports of oil further west along the Louisiana coast are forcing the immediate closure of more oyster harvest areas. The Louisiana Department of Health announced today the closure of additional oyster harvesting bed areas west of the Mississippi, including areas 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22 and 23 as a precautionary response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf. These closures take effect immediately.
Areas 9, 10 and 11 are in Plaquemines Parish; Area 12 is in Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes. Areas 14 and 15 are in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes; areas 17, 19, 21, 22 and 23 are in Terrebonne Parish.
LDH Secretary Alan Levine and State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry signed the closure orders, which were effective immediately today, May 23, 2010.
LDH officials have been working closely with local, state and federal agencies to monitor the oil plume that continues to grow off of the Louisiana coastline for its potential impacts on oyster harvesting areas. Meanwhile, employees with LDH's Office of Public Health Molluscan Shellfish Program have continued regular testing of 8 million acres of coastal waters along the Louisiana shoreline.
In addition, LDH scientists and engineers are conducting enhanced testing of oyster meat taken from the closed beds to monitor the presence of oil, called hydrocarbon testing. Additional testing is also being conducted in unaffected oyster beds. These tests will create a baseline, which will be used to ensure the safety of oysters once the incident clears in order to reopen beds. Oysters being harvested in open areas are considered safe.
Areas 8, 13 and 28 remain closed.
Closures will remain in effect until officials have determined that environmental conditions are within the requirements specified by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.
The public is encouraged to call a toll-free hotline, 1-800-256-2775, to report the presence of oil or an oil sheen.
For more information related to the oil spill, visit http://www.emergency.louisiana.gov. Connect with us on www.facebook.com/GOHSEP and on Twitter @GOHSEP. View photos in from the state's response efforts at http://www.flickr.com/photos/lagohsep.