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EPIC XMAS FAIL: Two Beaches In St. Croix Are Deemed Not Safe For Swimming Or Fishing By DPNR

NOT SAFE: Chenay Bay beach in St. Croix

CHRISTIANSTED — Two beaches in St. Croix failed to pass a water quality test done by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) this week and are not considered safe to swim or fish in.

DPNR said Friday that Shoys and Chenay Bay beaches on St. Croix’s East End should be avoided by swimmers and fishermen because the waters around them do not meet established federal water safety standards.

The agency said that it tested 20 “designated” beaches from December 12 to 16 on St. Croix and St. John.

DPNR said it did not test beaches in St. Thomas this week — the busiest week for bustling Rock City when the most tourists will be there — and where a beach closed listing online could cause hotel guests to abandon their plans immediately.

It is the second Christmas season in  a row under Gov. Kenneth Mapp that DPNR has elected not to test the beaches in St. Thomas — where tourism is the biggest on the capital island — a big revenue source for the territory overall.

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 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 established water quality standards and ARE considered safe for swimming or fishing:


St. John

Johnson Bay, Oppenheimer, Cruz Bay, Great Cruz Bay, Frank Bay

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean region since 1989. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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