The St John Hurricane Recovery Water Quality Program is a beach and potable water quality testing project happening on the tiny three by seven mile island of St. John, in the United States Virgin Islands, just off the coast of Puerto Rico. This region was hit severely by two Category 5 hurricanes within two weeks this past September. One of the storms, Hurricane Irma, was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, with sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts over 200 mph. The impacts of this hurricane season have been devastating to the island.
Although a Surfrider Chapter is not yet* established in the Virgin Islands, Surfrider volunteers and activists have partnered with a local organization, Love City Strong, to put together a beach water quality sampling program. Their goals are to provide water quality information to local agencies, increase awareness on water quality issues, and notify community members on the bacteria levels at public beaches.
"before-after" snapshot from the video created by Niko Dellios
The regional and federal agencies that usually conduct this sampling are overwhelmed with other recovery efforts. Those that have found the time to conduct beach water quality sampling, provide results roughly one week after the sampling took place. Due to the dynamic nature of water quality, especially in tropical areas prone to frequent rains, the results of tests from one week ago generally do not apply to the current beach water quality.
Because the island still does not have electricity, which is required to operate BWTF traditional enterococcus tests, local volunteers are conducting water quality tests using Aguagenx field kits. These kits are able to quantify the level of fecal indicator bacteria, E. Coli, within two days, without electricity.
Volunteers are also able to test the potability of drinking water sources! If you are in the region, and unsure about the bacteria levels in your cistern water- please contact Katie Day at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sarah Swan at email@example.com.