Release Date: April 27, 2020
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE ANNOUNCES EXPANDED WATER QUALITY TESTING THROUGHOUT PARK WATERS
St. John, US Virgin Islands – Virgin Islands National Park announces an expanded water quality testing program to assess fecal coliform bacteria within key boat mooring areas.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in use changes in park bays where many vessels are mooring. For many years park staff have monitored fecal coliform bacteria levels monthly at Maho, Hawksnest, and Trunk Bay beaches, in accordance with EPA recreational water quality standards. Water samples are analyzed by an EPA and state-certified lab in St. Thomas.
The monitoring frequency at these areas was increased on April 13 to weekly sample collection. We are pleased to report the results are well-within the safe limits for swimming under EPA recreational water quality standards. The monitoring program was also expanded April 13 to include randomized sample collection at eight additional locations in the park, and, in Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, the bays of Hurricane Hole. The previous and expanded areas now encompass about 90% of the boat mooring areas in the park.
Weekly samples provide a general indicator for discharges of fecal coliform bacteria, and collection sites are randomized within each bay. The results from the previous two weeks are well below EPA threshold limits for recreational water and are consistent with baseline values the park has collected for several years. Based on water quality test results from samples collected and analyzed the past few weeks, the bays and beaches within the park and in the monument, the bays of Hurricane Hole, are safe for swimming and other activities.
The expanded water sampling sites, as well as an increased sample frequency to weekly collection at the existing three sites, will continue as long as the Territory is under a state of emergency. The park will provide periodic updates to the community regarding future sample results.
The park wishes to thank the mariners staying for extended periods in both territorial and park waters for their diligence in assuring that to either discharge waste a minimum three miles from shore or arranging for a pump out service.
The NPS encourages people who choose to visit the waters of Virgin Islands National Park during this pandemic to adhere to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and territory and local public health authorities to protect visitors and employees. As services are limited, the NPS urges visitors to continue to practice Leave No Trace principles, including pack-in and pack-out, to keep outdoor spaces safe and healthy. Law enforcement staff will remain on duty and may be reached at 1-866-995-8467.
The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners is our number one priority. The National Park Service (NPS) is working with federal, territory, and local authorities to closely monitor COVID-19. We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our website (www.nps.gov/viis) and social media channels.
Please contact Thomas Kelley at (340) 690-2440 should you have any questions.
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