Lake Charles –Officials with the Louisiana Department of Health announced late today the signing of an order to close two molluscan shellfish growing areas in Calcasieu estuary. The closure is for Area 29 (Lower Calcasieu Lake) and Area 30 (West Cove).

The closure was effective at sundown today, March 25, and will remain in place until state health officials determine the areas to be safe for oyster harvesting. The closure order was signed by LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise and State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry.

Health officials have worked closely with scientists from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality since the spill occurred last Tuesday. It is estimated that between 12 and 16 million gallons of sewage has entered the bayou since an underwater sewer pipe broke last week.

Officials with both agencies spent the weekend monitoring and tracking the spill. As soon as the front plume of the spill left Bayou D’Inde and entered the Calcasieu Ship Channel, the decision to close the growing areas was made.

LDH has notified local oyster harvesters who work in the two areas that are now closed, as well as the Louisiana Oyster Task Force.

Mike Voisin, chairman of the task forces supports the closure. “The oyster industry believes it is necessary to take precautionary steps such as this to ensure that only safe and healthy oysters are harvested.”

According to Bruce Champion, DHH’s manager for the molluscan shellfish program, reopening of the harvest areas will not occur until it is determined that conditions are safe.

“The standards are set by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program,” he explained. “Over the next week or more, we will monitor environmental conditions as well as take water samples. Only when these samples comes back clean, and when the proper environmental conditions have been achieved, will we reopen the harvest areas.”

For more information on oyster harvesting areas in Louisiana, please visit the LDH Web site at:http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov/offices/?ID=214.