St. Thomas Bay beach (shown before it was closed on Oct. 16), was re-opened to swimmers on Friday after testing showed that the water no longer contained hazardous levels of bacteria, government said. (Photo: FILE PHOTO)

St. Thomas Bay beach on Virgin Gorda re-opened for recreational use on Friday after being closed for a week due to high levels of bacteria discovered in the water.

“The results of the ongoing water quality testing show that [the area] is now at suitable standards for bathing,” according to a government press release.

Government also apologised for any inconvenience caused during the closure.

The area extending from Fort Point to Collision Point was closed to recreational use from Oct. 16 through last Thursday.

Before the closure, water was tested at various locations along the coast of St. Thomas Bay, said Atoya George, laboratory technician in the Environment and Climate Change Unit of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration.

“The results showed elevated bacteria levels, particularly in areas where a ghut exists,” she stated in an earlier press release announcing the closure. “We are conducting further testing in the area, and as soon as conditions improve, beach users will be given the green light for water contact activities.”

She also said at the time that officials are carrying out water testing on beaches throughout the territory.

During a meeting on Jost Van Dyke (see page one), Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley congratulated the island for its excellent water quality.

Past closures in Cane

The VG beach was not the first to be closed in recent years. In September 2019, Cane Garden Bay was shut for about a week due to high levels of harmful bacteria following Tropical Storm Karen, which sent water gushing down and eventually overflowing the ghut leading into the ocean, officials said at the time.

Cane Garden Bay also closed in December 2017 following Hurricane Irma, when water samples showed high counts of dangerous bacteria that officials speculated may have been the result of excess sediment runoff and the village’s nonfunctioning sewage plant.

The following month, the beach reopened, then closed, then reopened again.