The Washington Post

Floating dorm at St. Mary’s College could taint local oysters

The relocation of nearly 250 St. Mary’s College of Maryland students to a cruise ship docked near campus is causing a minor inconvenience for at least one local constituency: the oysters of St. Mary’s River and the oystermen who harvest them.

This floating dorm, set up to solve a housing crisis on campus, will pose a number of logistical problems. One is the question of what to do with thousands of gallons of wastewater flushed down the toilets and drains of the cruise ship cabins.

College leaders plan to store the icky water in a holding tank aboard the Sea Voyager, then pump it out and transport it to a water treatment plant, according to Jay Apperson, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. Any spillage could taint the local ecosystem, including the denizens of an oyster bar that runs along the section of river near campus.

So, the state agency has closed that area of St. Mary’s River to oyster harvesting for as long as the students remain on the ship, according to Apperson. St. Mary’s President Joseph Urgo said the ship would probably remain in service through the holidays.

Fall is peak oyster season. Environmental officials hope that this precautionary move will help “retain confidence in the shellfish that are caught and sold in Maryland,” Apperson said.


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