Fears that the water at Great Bay Beach may have been contaminated during the recent heavy rains were confirmed by Nature Foundation tests (see related story). Samples taken afterwards showed the presence of coliform bacteria, an indicator of sewage.

Sea-bathers are being urged to exercise extreme caution when using especially the beach east of Captain Hodge Wharf. However, that’s also the part most frequented by especially visitors, where many of the lounge chairs and umbrella vendors are located.

Clearly, this is not a tenable situation. Make no mistake, if the waters off Philipsburg were ever permanently declared unfit for swimming it would be huge blow to the country’s tourism economy.

For now, the problem seems limited to weather conditions that create a lot of runoff from land. These regularly require pumping water out of Great Salt Pond to sea via Rolandus Channel in that same area, and/or opening the outlet for Fresh Pond at the other end of the beach.

Still, considering how often such circumstances occur, more needs to be done to combat this kind of pollution. Today, Monday, there are two cruise ships in port and one can imagine the less-than-positive impact should their passengers be told Great Bay Beach is currently unsafe.

One contributing factor is that not all sections of the capital and its surroundings have yet been connected to the central sewerage system that feeds into the wastewater purification plant on A.Th. Illidge Road. Doing so remains a work in progress, but advances are being made, as witnessed by related projects in several districts.

Possible solutions could include somehow creating a new catchment for overspill from the two ponds, but that’s easier said than done due to the available space. Meanwhile, if everyone with cesspits just made sure these were emptied in a timely manner instead of allowing their content to get into the rainwater runoff, that would already be a big help.