As tourism continues to recover in the U.S. Virgin Islands after two devastating hurricanes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 2 Office expects to award up to $272,000 to the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) to help protect beachgoers, contingent upon the number of eligible recipients that apply for grant funds nationwide and the availability of funding.
“Enjoying the beach is a quintessential pastime for Americans every summer,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Through EPA’s BEACH grants, we are ensuring communities across the country can keep their beaches safe and enjoyable for all.”
“Helping the U.S. Virgin Islands recover from hurricanes Irma and Maria remains a top priority,” said Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “This grant supports the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ vital program to protect public health and the environment, even as it supports maintaining the scenic beaches of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas for tourism and the residents’ quality of life.”
DPNR is expected to receive $272,000 for the 2019 swimming season to implement the beach monitoring and notification program at 43 beaches throughout the territory: 20 beaches on St. Croix, 8 beaches on St. John, and 15 beaches on St. Thomas.
Under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act, EPA awards grants to eligible state, territorial and tribal applicants to help them and their local government partners monitor water quality at coastal and Great Lakes beaches. When bacteria levels are too high for safe swimming, these agencies notify the public by posting beach warnings or closing the beach.
Since 2002, state and local governments, territories and tribes have used more than $157 million in EPA BEACH Act grants to monitor beaches for fecal indicator bacteria, maintain and operate public notification systems, identify local pollution sources, and report results of monitoring and notification activities to EPA. Grant funding under the BEACH ACT is part of a broader EPA effort to find and eliminate sources of water pollution that contribute to beach closures.
U.S. Virgin Islands’ beach monitoring notifications can be found in weekly updates at http://www.vitema.vi.gov/news.