Although Cruz Bay beach failed a routine weekly Department of Planning and Natural Resources water quality test on Friday, December 7, the water passed a test the following week, on December 14, and officials blamed the first result on run-off.
On St. John DPNR’s Division of Environmental Protection tests the water every Friday at Oppenheimer, Klein Bay, Hart Bay, Chocolate Hole, Frank Bay, Cruz Bay, Great Cruz Bay and Johnson’s Bay.
Most often all beaches pass the water quality test, which checks for pollutants and bacteria including enterococci, a bacteria found in the intestines of warm blooded animals.
DPNR officials issued a warning after the December 7 water test showed elevated levels of bacteria in Cruz Bay.
“There may be an increased health risk to anyone swimming in these areas as a result of an increased concentration of bacteria,” according to DPNR’s statement about Cruz Bay. “All persons should also be aware that storm-water runoff may also contain contaminants or pollutants harmful to human health and therefore all persons should avoid areas of storm-water runoff (i.e.: guts, puddles, and drainage basins).”
The notice advised residents to keep clear of the affected water.
“DPNR is advising the public to refrain from using the waters at the beach mentioned above,” according to the department’s statement about Cruz Bay. “This includes activities such as fishing and bathing. DPNR is also advising parents to please instruct their children to keep away from the above-mentioned area.”
The water was tested again the following week and on Friday, December 21, and passed both times, meaning the failed test was probably due to recent rains and related non-point source pollution, explained DPNR spokesperson Jamal Nielsen.
“Cruz Bay failed because of the rain and the non-point source pollution,” Nielsen said. “When we have weather like that everything runs down into the water.”
Shoreline construction activity, however, may have impacted the water quality as well, Nielsen added.
“There is also some construction activity and in heavy rains, pollutants tend to get down to the ocean,” he said.
The bacteria level in the Cruz Bay water is not uncommon after heavy rains, according to Nielsen.
“Most beaches, when we have stormy weather, they tend to test positive for certain pollutants,” he said. “It’s not uncommon with heavy rains. The water passed the next two tests.”