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DPNR BEACH ADVISORY: Two Beaches In The Territory Should Be Avoided This Christmas After Failing Water Quality Testing

GREAT CRUZ BAY — Two beaches in the territory failed water quality testing and should be avoided by swimmers and fishermen, according to the latest Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) Beach Advisory.

DPNR said that one beach on St. Croix and one on St. John are not considered safe to swim or fish in.

Halfpenny beach on St. Croix and Great Cruz Bay in St. John each tested unsafe for swimming or fishing, the environmental protection agency said.

DPNR said that it tested 29 “designated” beaches from December 18 to 22 on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.

It said that it did not test Stoney Ground, Protestant Cay, Cramer’s Park and Cheney Bay “could not be sampled because access to them or the use of their waters pose a risk to health and safety.”

On St. Thomas, DPNR said that it did not test Hull Bay, Limetree Bay and Morningstar for the same “health and safety” reasons.

“All persons should also be aware that storm water runoff due to hurricanes and tropical storms may also contain contaminants or pollutants harmful to human health due to storm debris and therefore all persons should use one’s own discretion when swimming or fishing and avoid areas of storm water runoff (i.e. guts, puddles, and drainage basins),” DPNR said. “If the waters appear muddy or murky or have foul odors, do not swim or fish. DPNR will continue to monitor the impacted areas and waters.”

DPNR has been testing the ocean waters in Tier 1 Coastal Zone Management areas since 2004 after the federal Beach Act was passed by Congress as an extension to the clean water act in 2000, DPNR Environmental Engineer Benjamin Keularts said.

The local agency tests ocean waters in areas that are used by the greatest number of people, are popular with water enthusiasts and have the greatest accessibility to the public, Keularts, who is the TPDES Permit Administrator in the Water Pollution Control Program for DPNR, said.

DPNR has been testing the waters in the territory out of a “concern for human health” and because it is mandated by the U.S. government under the Clean Water Act, he said.

Rainwater runoff is the greatest threat to clean ocean water in the Virgin Islands and DPNR is testing for ocean waters that “do not meet water quality standards because they exceed the established Enterococci bacteria threshold.”

Enterococci are potentially-infectious bacteria common in the feces of warm-blooded animals, including humans. In 1986, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended using enterococci in place of fecal coliform bacteria as the preferred indicator of fecal pollution and health risk in marine water.

High levels of Enterococci bacteria and turbidity may be caused by runoff due to heavy rains, heavy marine vessel traffic, high wave activity near the shoreline, irresponsible recreational use, etc. Runoff can consist of sediment, pesticides, animal feces and oil & grease, all of which are harmful to the waters of the territory.

DPNR said it will continue to monitor these popular swimming and also recommends that you use your own discretion when swimming or fishing at the designated beaches.

If the waters appear muddy or murky or have foul odors, do not swim or fish. For additional information regarding water quality call the Division of Environmental Protection at (340) 773-1082 in St. Croix.

The following beaches meet established water quality standards and ARE considered safe for swimming or fishing:

St. Croix

Buccaneer, Pelican Cove (Cormorant), Frederiksted Public Beach, Gentle Winds, New Fort (Ft. Louise Augusta) and Rainbow

St. Thomas

Bluebeard’s, Bolongo Bay, Coki Point, Lindquist, Magens Bay, Sapphire and Vessup Bay

St. John

Cruz Bay, Frank Bay, Johnson Bay and Oppenheimer

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands since 1989. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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