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DPNR: One Beach In St. Thomas Not Considered Safe To Swim Or Fish In

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CHARLOTTE AMALIE – One beach on St. Thomas has failed water in quality testing done by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) and is not considered safe to swim or fish in.

DPNR said Friday afternoon that Sapphire Bay beach on St. Thomas should be avoided by swimmers and fishermen because the waters around them do not meet established water safety standards.

Some 35 beaches were tested from April 18 to 22 on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. Last week all the beaches in St. Croix were also considered safe to swim and fish in, but testing was not done in St. Thomas or St. John.

DPNR said it 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 told the Virgin Islands Free Press.

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 water quality standards and are considered safe for swimming or fishing:

St. Croix

Stoney Ground, Protestant Cay, Buccaneer, Cramer Park, Frederiksted public beach, Pelican Cove (Cormorant), Princess Beach (Condo Row), Shoys, Rainbow, Chenay Bay, Grapetree Bay. Dorsch, Cane Bay, New Fort (Ft. Louise Augusta), Halfpenny

St. Thomas

Lindquist, Coki Point, Bluebeards, Secret Harbor,
Bolongo Bay,Water Bay, Frenchman’s Bay, Hull Bay, Magen’s Bay, Lindbergh Bay, Brewer’s Bay, Vessup Bay

St. John

Johnson Bay, Cruz Bay, Great Cruz Bay, Oppenhiemer, Frank Bay

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.


  1. Kim
    July 1, 2018 at 5:06 PM — Reply

    Hello, is Sapphire beach in St. Thomas safe for swimming and fishing yet or it’s still ban? We are traveling to st. Thomas next month and looking for a place to stay, debating between Sapphire Beach Resort and Wyndham Magarritaville (Cook Beach area). Thank you.

  2. Lorraine Stewart
    December 4, 2018 at 2:32 AM — Reply

    Is Sapphire beach is St Thomas safe for swimming? I’ll be traveling in April 2019 and planned on staying at Sapphire Beach Resort. Also where would I look on the web for the latest water testing in the area?
    Thank you

    • December 4, 2018 at 8:27 AM — Reply

      You can follow this online newspaper every week when DPNR releases a new report. Also, you can search our website going back to 2015 with the keyword “Sapphire” to see how many times that beach has been cited in the past.

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