Purdy Sandspit was under a swimming advisory due to elevated levels of bacteria, but that warning has been lifted, according to the Tacoma- Pierce County Health Department.

However, the shellfishing ban is still in effect, and includes all of Carr Inlet due to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, said Mark Laverne, environmental health specialist with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

“It’s usually a seasonal, summertime thing,” he said. “We’re not exactly sure what triggers it, and we’ve had it in the fall and winter.”

Two people in Alaska have died this year from PSP, he said. It is serious.

“If the levels are high enough it can shut down your respiratory system,” Laverne said.
PSP is nothing new. Laverne said records date back hundreds of years noting deaths of ship crewmembers from a shellfish.

“It’s naturally occurring, but we don’t know what, or if human impact has anything to do with it.”

The PSP doesn’t hurt the shellfish, but when the animal filters the water with the toxin it ends up in their water column, he said. It builds up in their tissues and if eaten, it is deadly to humans.

Shellfish are harvested from certain locations and sent to the state lab for testing for PSP, he said. If the reports show more than 80 parts per million shellfishing is closed in that area that is affected, he said.

“We usually test until October or November, and if we have hot spots we’ll keep going as long as the state wants us to,” Laverne said.

For more information about areas closed to shelfishing, visit the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Web site at tpchd.org and click on the Safe Shellfish Program.