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PRESS RELEASE

In Precautionary Move, DHH Closes Oyster Harvesting Area 17 Due to Oil Spill
Oysters on the Market Still Safe; Officials Continue Aggressive Testing


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BATON ROUGE (May 13, 2010) - The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals announced today the closure of oyster harvesting bed Area 17 as a precautionary response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf.

The closure, which will take effect today at sundown, is west of the Mississippi River in Terrebonne Parish.

DHH Secretary Alan Levine and State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry signed the closure order, which will take effect at sunset today, Thursday, May 13, 2010.

DHH 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 DHH'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, DHH 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 2 through 8, 14 and 15 also are 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.

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