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The Department of Health has closed Samish Bay to shellfish harvesting because of high levels of fecal bacteria from the Samish River.

The bay, which is south of Bellingham Bay off of Skagit County, will be closed temporarily until the level of dangerous bacteria falls, according to the health department.

“When the numbers of fecal coliform bacteria are high, the bay is closed to ensure that contaminated shellfish are not marketed,” the department said in a news release announcing the closure on Monday.

The state health agency’s Shellfish Program says this closure shows there’s more work to be done to correct the pollution problems that have affected Samish Bay, currently classified as conditionally approved for shellfish gathering. The bay’s bacteria levels are adversely affected when the Samish river rises quickly, the health department said.

Past closures have typically lasted a few days, according to the health department, and the bay will be re-opened when water sample results improve.

The health department says that local and state agencies, residents, and volunteers have been working for three years to eliminate the temporary closures of Samish Bay.