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DPNR BEACH ADVISORY: Five Beaches On Three Islands Fail Bacteria Testing

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Five beaches on all three islands in territory failed water quality testing for bacteria and should be avoided by swimmers and fishermen, according to the latest Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) Beach Advisory.

DPNR said that three beaches on St. Thomas failed: Lindquist and Sapphire this week. Bluebeard’s beach failed water quality testing for a third week in a row.

On St. Croix, Halfpenny beach revealed a high bacteria count and on St. John, Oppenheimer was not considered safe to swim or fish in.

The department said that it tested 34 “designated” beaches from October 15 to 19 on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John.

It said that it did not test Grapetree Bay, Princess Condo Row and Stoney Ground on St. Croix “therefore the water quality (at these beaches) is unknown.”

SEWAGE WATER ADVISORY NOTE: DPNR advises the public to refrain from using the coastal waters in the Christiansted Harbor area until further notification, as due to mechanical issues with the LBJ VIWMA pump station, untreated sewage is overflowing from the sewer system into surface waters in the Christiansted Harbor.

“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, 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, Cane Bay, Chenay Bay, Cramer Park, Dorsch, Frederiksted Public Beach, Gentle Winds, New Fort (Fort Louise Augusta), Pelican Cove (Cormorant), Rainbow and Shoys

St. Thomas

Bolongo Bay, John Brewer’s Bay, Coki Point, Frenchman’s Bay, Hull Bay, Lindbergh, Magen’s Bay, Morningstar, Secret Harbor, Vessup Bay and Water Bay

St. John

Cruz Bay, Great Cruz Bay, Frank Bay and Johnson 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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