Watermen cite significant loss of income after raw sewage dumped in Nansemond River

Health

SUFFOLK, Va. (WVAY) — Too much recent rain, too much sewage, too much apparently for aging pipes. 

It’s estimated 1.5 million gallons of raw sewage has been dumped in the Nansemond River. 

“They are discharging and allowing raw sewage to be discharged into the rivers that we swim in, fish in, use for recreation,” said attorney Joe Waldo, who represented several oystermen in the past, and is involved in current lawsuits against HRSD and the city of Suffolk.

HRSD blames too much rain water in a short period of time. HRSD says that has overloaded pipes and a pump station.

10 On Your Side called Suffolk, who said to call HRSD. A call for comment was not returned by the media relations specialist.  Waldo says he was not surprised by no comment.

“Suffolk has refused to manage its growth. It is [overburdened], the system is not designed for the capacity that it is having to endure.” 

We found watermen at Johnson and Sons Seafood in Suffolk.  They were pulling bushels of oysters off their workboat after harvesting them from an unaffected creek.

However, Robert Johnson, who owns the business, estimates he has 750 acres of oyster beds that can’t be harvested right now, and that costs him $2,000 to $3,000 a day.

“We are totally shut down. Ninety percent of our oysters are in the Nansemond River which is the best growing ground in this area.” 

Waldo has a map that shows all the areas that are condemned by the Virginia Department of Health, and all the areas in red are owned by Johnson and Waldo’s other clients.  

“You get a call Thursday afternoon, and they say midnight you can’t go back to work until we call you back. Wouldn’t that present a bit of a problem for you, ”Johnson said, describing how he found out oyster harvesting was over for now. “I mean there’s a loss of income. I have five people working with us, and we are responsible for their salaries for them and their families. I have that [responsibility].”

For now, the advisories remain in effect until Oct.13.  


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