Environmental Officer Atoya George (left) and Natural Resources and Labour Minister Mitch Turnbull (right) hosted a press conference on Tuesday to announce a grant designed to expand the government’s water-quality testing programme. (Photo: ZARRIN TASNIM AHMED)

Funded by a $933,189 grant from the European Union, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour will expand its seawater-quality-monitoring programme over the next 14 months through an effort that officials said will help isolate pollution hotspots and protect marine ecosystems.

The initiative — which aims to establish new priority areas and water-quality parameters in the Virgin Islands — will include institutional strengthening, capacity building, and the acquisition of needed equipment, according to government.

Planned purchases include a boat and testing devices to facilitate water monitoring and a server to host marine data, Environmental Officer Atoya George said during a press conference on Tuesday morning.


The government, Ms. George said, already operates a seawater-quality monitoring programme that focuses on four “heavily populated” beaches: Brewers Bay, Cane Garden Bay, Smugglers Cove and Long Bay, Beef Island.

“The programme was initiated in 1988, but since its initiation we haven’t made upgrades to the system,” she said. “Through this project, we’re hoping to upgrade that.”

The new initiative will add more testing locations, including near Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda. Priority sites will include areas where boat groundings have occurred and coastal zones near dumpsites and desalination plants, she said.

Information gathered from such sites will assist in creating hazard maps to inform spatial planning decisions, according to Ms. George.

“An improved water-quality data source would allow us to identify pollution hotspots and take immediate actions to things happening in our environment,” she added.


The project, which started last month, is expected to be completed over a period of 14 months in collaboration with H. Lavity Stoutt Community College’s Centre for Applied Marine Sciences, where the existing water-quality laboratory is located.

The initiative is part of the regional Resilience, Sustainable Energy and Marine Biodiversity Programme, which is funded by the EU and implemented by Expertise France, a French public agency that designs and implements international projects.

RESEMBID supports sustainable development efforts in the VI and 11 other overseas countries and territories in the Caribbean.

Sustainable development

During the Tuesday press conference, Natural Resources and Labour Minister Mitch Turnbull highlighted the importance of the VI project.

“Our lives depend on a clean and healthy natural environment, and this project will significantly assist the territory to achieve its sustainable development goals for the conservation of our precious natural resources,” he said.

He added that the effort will also build the resilience of coastal and marine waters and increase biodiversity in the territory.


According to Ms. George, the territory’s water quality is impacted by sedimentation, sewage, and an active marine industry that uses chemicals for boat maintenance.

Poor water quality impacts the health of the reefs, the fish people eat, the health of mangroves, and human health, she added.

The VI project also involves the Department of Information Technology, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the National Parks Trust.