More than 20 people fell ill after Maryland officials failed to warn residents about oysters that were contaminated by raw sewage.
Between Oct. 28 and Oct. 30, heavy rain sent 25,000 gallons of sewage into the Potomac River, contaminating oysters in the water, The Baltimore Sun reported.
St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission Executive Director George Erichsen said the sewage company reported the incident to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and made a Facebook post to tell the public.
The agency, however, reportedly failed to provide warning to the public until Nov. 13, after oysters from the river were served at an event in Virginia.
Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks told the Sun the failure is “inexcusable” and that “people are sick because MDE failed to do its job.”
After the department did issue a public warning, shellfish harvesting was suspended in the parts of the river that were contaminated, the paper reported.
“To our knowledge, this is the first time something of this nature has happened,” department spokesman Jay Apperson said. “We are now working on improving our coordination within programs, through retraining and building redundancies into our process as a safeguard to prevent this from happening in the future.”
The Hill has reached out to the MDE for further comment.