Dyke Hendrickson, Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — NEWBURYPORT — The money directed toward operating the Newburyport shellfish purification plant on Plum Island, perviously cut from Gov. Deval Patrick’s $32.5 billion budget, has been reinstated.
The plant is now due to receive $400,000, after the state Senate voted overwhelmingly last week to restore the funding; the House had done so earlier in the week.
The plant, run by the state Division of Marine Fisheries, cleans shellfish — mostly clams — that are brought in by local workers. It employs about a half-dozen, and proponents say its operation indirectly supports many other jobs. After purification, the seafood can be transported to commercial outlets with the certification that it is fit for consumption.
The plant is not used by clammers out of Essex, Gloucester or elsewhere across Cape Ann, since clams drawn from the waters in those communities are deemed safe from the start and do not require the plant’s purifications. The plant serves master diggers working semi-contaminated flats identified in Newburyport, Salisbury, Boston, Weymouth, Quincy, Hull, Revere, Saugus and Winthrop.
Clams from those communities, and through the purification plant, are sold at restaurants an seafood markets across the North Shore, including on Cape Ann. And the need for keeping the plant up and running was driven home loud and clear by some 30 North Shore shellfishermen who turned out for a hearing organized this past spring by state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and hosted at the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries station on Emeson Avenue in Gloucester.
“This (debate) is something that happens every couple of years and it’s not only the purification plant,” Tarr said at the time.
“It’s about shellfishing issues in the North of Boston region,’” he said, “having to do with how frequently the shellfishing beds are being tested, the amount of time they are closed and the amount of time it takes to open them.”
State Rep. Mike Costello, the Newburyport Democrat whose district includes the Plum Island plant. “I’m glad the money was restored. “It enables clammers to make a living and also is helpful to many down the line, including restaurant owners and consumers who buy for the home. The plant plays an important role in our area.”
The Plum Island facility has been deleted in budgets of other governors and has always escaped elimination.
“This is an important function for the local area,” said Newburyport Harbormaster Paul Hogg. “Clams have to be purified, and restaurants have to know what they serve has been through the process.
“I don’t know where the local clammers would go if this plant wasn’t here.”
Dyke Hendrickson can be reached through email@example.com.