Three Mile Harbor will reopen to shellfishing Thursday at sunrise, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
For the past 18 years, the harbor has been closed temporarily to shellfishing for several days after an annual fireworks show because of possible waste from watercraft. Hundreds of boats moor at the harbor to get the best view of the show, then stay overnight. If waste is discharged from the boats, shellfish in the harbor can become contaminated with bacteria. The closing provides time for the shellfish to cleanse themselves.
The fireworks tradition started in the early 1970s, when writer and fireworks lover George Plimpton, who co-founded "The Paris Review" literary magazine, put on a small fireworks show from his house the week after Bastille Day.
Eventually, he moved the show to Three Mile Harbor, and it later became a fundraiser for Boys and Girls Harbor, the camp that was run by philanthropist Tony Duke. Although the camp is now closed, the fireworks program is still used as a fundraiser by the nonprofit Clamshell Foundation, which donates funds to several local charities and offers environmental scholarships to East Hampton High School students.
Three Mile Harbor is a no-discharge zone, which means boats are supposed to use pump-out facilities rather than discharge waste into the water. The East Hampton Town trustees have a pump-out boat that can be contacted on marine radio channel 73, and the harbormaster has a self-serve pump-out station on Gann Road. Both services are free.