Because of two large sewage spills, Toby Van Buren could not harvest clams Thursday in tidal waters behind the Isle of Palms.

Instead, he spent time in his garage, tending and mending equipment used to farm the mollusks.

Things have been like that for Van Buren since Aug. 28, when Mount Pleasant Waterworks leaked an estimated 500,000 gallons of sewage that drained into ponds at Seaside Farms subdivision on Rifle Range Road.

To make matter worse, three days later, about 470,000 gallons of partially-treated wastewater overflowed at the Sullivan’s Island treatment plant.

“I’ve never had anything like this happen before. It’s a little disconcerting,” Van Buren said.

Heavy rains were cited by officials as factors in the spills.

Van Buren said the condition of aging pipes is a problem, too. A section of pipe pulled from the ground after the Rifle Range Road spill had gaping holes in it.

“We’re building roads and bridges and all this stuff. We need to think about what’s under the ground too,” he said.

After the first spill, Van Buren’s clam farm near Breach Inlet was automatically shut down for 21 days as required by law.

Now, he is waiting for officials to test the water and the clams to tell him if he can go back to work selling his product.

State health department staff will return on Sept. 26 to gather samples for testing.

Read more in Friday’s editions of The Post and Courier.