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DPNR BEACH ADVISORY: Buccaneer Hotel Beach Fails Water Quality Testing Twice In Less Than 30 Days

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CHRISTIANSTED — For the second time in less than 30 days, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) has warned the public to avoid using the Buccaneer Hotel Beach as it could pose a serious health risk to those who go in and around its waters.

DPNR said today that the Buccaneer Hotel Beach is the only beach in the territory that is not safe for swimming of fishing after the beach again failed water quality testing.

On January 27, DPNR also warned beachgoers to avoid the Estate Shoys-based beach at the Buccaneer Hotel, saying it does not meet established federal water safety standards. DPNR made the same pronouncement again today.

The agency said that it tested 20 “designated” beaches from February 20 to 24 on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John.

Due to circumstances out of its control, it said it was not able to test all beaches in St. Croix and St. Thomas that it normally does. Typically, DPNR normally tests 33 beaches territory-wide in any given week.

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 popular syndicated American TV show “Wheel of Fortune” frequently gives away free trips to the Buccaneer Hotel on St. Croix, perhaps without any knowledge of the possible health dangers to “winners” rewarded with a vacation here.

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

Protestant Cay, Cramer Park, Cheney Bay, Princess Condo Row, New Fort (Ft. Louise Augusta), Halfpenny and Grapetree Bay

St. Thomas

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

St. John

Great Cruz Bay, Frank Bay, Oppenheimer and Cruz 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.

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