Clean Water for Clams and Opening Clam Flats

Starting in 2010, KELT has collaborated with state, local, and regional partners to focus on shellfish and water quality in the Kennebec Estuary.

Why Clams and Clean Water?

As the third most valuable fishery in Maine, shellfish harvesting is greatly affected by the quality of water in which the animals grow and feed.  Shellfish harvesting is an economically and culturally important part of the Kennebec Estuary.

Because of the way clams feed, by filtering water and taking out food from it, these mollusks can concentrate pollutants in their tissues.   In areas with high levels of either metal and bacterial pollutants, the state closes shellfish flats to protect public health.  For some of these bacterial pollution sources, specifically bacteria from malfunctioning septic systems, waste water treatment overflows, boat discharges, farm animals, and household pet waste, people can take action to control and clean up pollution.  With the pollution gone, clam flats can reopen and people can get back out on the flats to dig clams for fun or to make a living.

KELT’s Clean Water for Clams program focuses on learning more and raising awareness about water quality and pollution sources on clam flats, so Kennebec Estuary clam flats are clean and open for harvesting.

Targeted Water Sampling

Kennebec Estuary Shellfish Area Project 2012

The goal of the Kennebec Shellfish Area Project was to work toward a better understanding of the sources and movement of fecal pollution on shellfish flats in the towns of Georgetown, Arrowsic, Westport Island, Phippsburg, Woolwich, and West Bath through a combination of outreach, sampling, area pollution source surveys, stream surveys, GIS analysis, and data analysis.

The long-term goal is refinement of shellfish area classifications, identification of sources of fecal pollution, and opening more areas for shellfish harvesting.

  •  Project Report


KELT is so proud of Morse High School students, Max Rawson and Schuyler Mace (left), for participating in the Maine Science Fair 2012 with their project on the water quality of Brookings Bay in Woolwich.
(Check out the project website here:

)They placed SECOND in the ‘Earth, Physics, and Astronomy’ group AND received one of the four ‘Most Outstanding Science Projects’ from the Air Force. Congratulations guys!

Clam Flat and Water Quality Programs for the Community