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DPNR BEACH ADVISORY: Two Beaches In St. Thomas Fail Water Quality Testing and Should Be Avoided

Aerial shot of Coki Point, St. Thomas in foreground to Great St. James Island in background, U.S. Virgin Islands

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Two beaches in St. Thomas 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 Coki Point and Bluebeards beaches should be avoided by swimmers and fishermen.

The agency said that it tested 17 beaches from April 16 to 20 on St. Thomas and St. John.

It said that it did not test St. Croix at all and Frenchman’s Bay on St. Thomas “therefore the water quality is unknown.”

“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. Thomas

Bolongo Bay, Brewer’s Bay, Hull Bay, Lindquist, Magen’s Bay, Vessup Bay, Secret Harbor, Water Bay, Sapphire and Lindbergh Bay

St. John

Cruz Bay, Frank Bay, Great Cruz 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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