"Several million gallon" sewage spill means some Charleston area oysters may not be local

Oysters, Bowens Island (WCIV)

Eating local is not hard in Charleston, but some local oyster beds are now off-limits after a sewage spill near the town of Hollywood. It has some Lowcountry restaurants and customers shelling out extra bucks.

DHEC recalled the oysters harvested in the affected areas, which includes areas south of Charleston Harbor to the North Edisto River. A broken pipe maintained by the Hollywood Sewer System is to blame, officials say.

The Charleston Water System processes the town's wastewater. On Tuesday, an official with CWS said they believe several million gallons of sewage spilled into the marsh last month, but add the issue has since been fixed and water flow levels have returned to normal.

To make up for the shortage, restaurants like Bowens Island are now buying oysters from areas like McClellanville and Beaufort. It comes at a higher cost for the both the business and the consumer.

"This is a primetime for oysters. As long as it's cool through March, we do pretty strong with oysters and it starts slowing down as it warms up. Typically, this is a good time so that's hurt us not being able to do the all-you-can-eat," said owner Robert Barber. "We're still serving the oysters but we're doing them by the tray or by the bucket. We're pretty known for doing all-you-can-eat, so we kind of hate to do that."

Barber said the shortage has wiped out much of their guaranteed daily supply.

"When you have a regular system set up and people picking very locally, most of our oysters most of the time come from 500 yards to three or four miles from here," Barber said.

He said the recall is also coming on the heels of an already tough oyster season, as several main commercial beds were off-limits this year due to overharvesting.

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