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EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) said that around 10 million gallons of partly treated wastewater was released into Mount Hope Bay Sunday morning. 

According to the DEM, the main circuit breaker at Fall River’s wastewater treatment facility shorted around midnight, causing the wastewater to bypass the plant’s pumps.  

As a result, around 10 million gallons of wastewater leaked into Mount Hope Bay, prompting a precautionary closure of the Rhode Island section of the bay and the Kickemuit River, the DEM said. 

“We’re talking about a small area in Bristol in Mount Hope Bay that’s right near Roger Williams University – we’re saying that it is closed for shell fishing for today and for the next 7 days,” said Mike Healey with the Rhode Island DEM.

Healey said the goal of the closure is to prevent any contaminated seafood from making it into the food supply.

“What we’re trying to do by announcing this closure is to prevent any diggers from going out digging quahogs and then to have potentially contaminated quahogs into the food system,” said Healey.

The circuit breaker that shorted was reset around 11:00 a.m. Sunday and the wastewater treatment facility returned to normal operations, according to the DEM. 

The DEM said they do not expect any additional shellfish closures beyond Growing Areas (GA) GA17 and GA5.  

Map shows the two Growing Areas that were closed at noon Sunday (Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management)

Healey said there should be no long term impacts as a result of Sunday’s incident.

“You have strong water currents coming down from the Taunton river and then you have a tidal water body that is not a huge bay and once it enters Narragansett Bay, it’s going to quickly disperse towards the ocean,” Healey said.

For more information on emergency and conditional area water quality related shellfish closures, call DEM’s 24-hour shell fishing hotline at 401-222-2900.

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