Franklin County Oystermen Out of Work

The waters of the Apalachicola Bay remain closed due to sewage contamination from Hurricane Dennis' storm surge.

Officials say there is too much bacteria in the water to reopen it, putting the oystermen who depend on the water to make a living in a tight spot.

Dallas Gilbert would normally be harvesting oysters this time of year, but the storm surge from Hurricane Dennis has put sewage runoff in the bay, closing the waters and leaving his boat at the dock.

Dallas says it gives him plenty of spare time.

“Lay on the couch and watch NASCAR," he says.

But NASCAR won't pay the bills.

His dock would normally have only a few boats sitting here during the day. Today it’s full.

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services tested the water again on Monday. The results will come back in 24 hours and the waters will not reopen if the bacteria levels remain high.

But officials like Joe Shield from the Ag Department do understand that oysters are a big part of the local economy.

"It’s a double-sized sword. You want to maintain consumer confidence as well as protect public health but you also want to folks back to work as quickly as possible."

They hope to allow oyster harvesting to resume later in the week. Not soon enough for local fisherman like Dallas.

"Put the hurt on us. Kinda struggling to get the bills paid. Getting things taken care of. Something needs to change quick."

These fishermen say they are running out of time. Another problem is fishermen say Hurricane Dennis has also scattered most of the shrimp population from the bay's shallow waters to where they can't get to them.