Local oyster harvest suffers from ITC firefighting foam contamination

On this last day of the Texas public oyster season, the haul from Galveston Bay was a good one for Prestige Oysters.

But, compared to these healthy shellfish, a spot inspection of a private oyster bed closer to the ship channel shows a number of newly dead oysters, well beyond what might be normally expected.

The state health department says water quality is right on target, but possible chemical contamination is the responsibility of the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

As experts ramp up efforts in the coming days to examine those oyster beds, the concern for the industry is real.

"This is the last day of the public season, this is their summer harvest," says Lisa Halili with Prestige Oysters. "This is what's going to feed them for the next 6 months, and the public."

Oyster fisherman and others are on the lookout for warning signs like this. It is, right now, just a warning sign. If it's bad, though, the question turns to what anyone can do about it? 

It will be a challenge.

The Galveston Bay Foundation collects regular water samples to gauge any notable changes in the water. New results from tests conducted by Texas A&M University show the incidence of toxic chemicals from the firefighting foam have radiated away from the ITC property and grown in intensity, and no one has faced such a big clean-up before. 

"A lot of these chemicals don't have standardized protocols in place right now," says Sarah Gossett with the Galveston Bay Foundation. "So a lot of that will have to be implemented and developed as we move forward."