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Great Bay Pollution - What is it like NOW?

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Hi everyone,

 

My mom and I were really looking forward to our day of lounging at Great Bay (including swimming) followed by lunch and some shopping. But then I started reading all these articles and posts about the sewage being emptied into the Bay. Definitely do not want to swim in it and risk getting sick. But I also notice the posts and articles are from 2-3 years ago. I am a Florida native and more than once, local stretches of beaches have been closed due to similar sewage problems. But then they re-open. My questions are the following:

 

1. If this is such a well known and actual current issue, how on earth can they keep that beach open for swimming, knowing people could get really ill?

 

2. Also, what exactly is the current state of this issue? We will be in port in april and would like to have a back up plan.

 

Thanks in advance!

*Shannon

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Hi everyone,

 

My mom and I were really looking forward to our day of lounging at Great Bay (including swimming) followed by lunch and some shopping. But then I started reading all these articles and posts about the sewage being emptied into the Bay. Definitely do not want to swim in it and risk getting sick. But I also notice the posts and articles are from 2-3 years ago. I am a Florida native and more than once, local stretches of beaches have been closed due to similar sewage problems. But then they re-open. My questions are the following:

 

1. If this is such a well known and actual current issue, how on earth can they keep that beach open for swimming, knowing people could get really ill?

 

2. Also, what exactly is the current state of this issue? We will be in port in april and would like to have a back up plan.

 

Thanks in advance!

*Shannon

So would we. Also, any information vis-a-vis the drop off into the water would be helpful. In other words is the entry into the water gradual or is there a steep decline.

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So would we. Also, any information vis-a-vis the drop off into the water would be helpful. In other words is the entry into the water gradual or is there a steep decline.

 

In another thread I have going, someone posted that once you get out past your knees, there is a sudden drop of about a foot bringing you in around your waist/chest.

 

So anyone recently been to St. Maarten or done research and know about the water issue?

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Personally - I would swim at Dawn or Orient Beach - both have good swimming and pollution is not an issue.

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Spent the day at Great Bay beach last March 2009, and am happy to be heading back there again on the Soltice the week of March 14th. Great Bay was very clean, very beautiful water with no significant drop off. You have a great view of the ships from the beach, and the shopping and dining are literally right across the street from the beach. Take the water taxi, and you're there! If you want a nice lazy beach day for cheap, Great Bay is very nice. 2 chairs and a bucket of beer for $15 is hard to beat!

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Thank you - that's the post I was hoping to read! I know how beautiful it is plus how convenient and cheap it is to go to that beach, do a little shopping, etc. I definitely think this will be our plan. We may book an excursion using some onboard credit once on the ship, but I'm looking forward to that beach. I remember the first time I was in St. Martin, we did another (horrible) excursion and they let us off of the bus in the shopping district...when we turned the corner and saw that blue water, I immediately wished I had my bathing suit on!

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Can you get lounge chairs at great bay?? It sounds like the place we would like to spend some time on when we are there in july, but we also want to do some shopping! Thanks for any responses:o

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Hi everyone,

 

My mom and I were really looking forward to our day of lounging at Great Bay (including swimming) followed by lunch and some shopping. But then I started reading all these articles and posts about the sewage being emptied into the Bay. Definitely do not want to swim in it and risk getting sick. But I also notice the posts and articles are from 2-3 years ago. I am a Florida native and more than once, local stretches of beaches have been closed due to similar sewage problems. But then they re-open. My questions are the following:

 

1. If this is such a well known and actual current issue, how on earth can they keep that beach open for swimming, knowing people could get really ill?

 

2. Also, what exactly is the current state of this issue? We will be in port in april and would like to have a back up plan.

 

Thanks in advance!

*Shannon

 

I believe that there is still pollution in Great Bay. I've posted links and photos in the past, but the local newspaper has very recently modified their archive, and my old links don't work any more. I had links from last September and November, and will try to re-create them.

 

Here is a link from less than a year ago that you can read. It is an Earth Day Letter to the Dutch Parliament begging them to do something.

 

Here is the link.

 

Here are a couple of points from the letter.

 

Earth Day Letter to Dutch Parliament Apr 09

Caribbean Foundation for Sustainability

 

• Do we have basic environmental standards to protect the air, the soil and the water? On June 11, 2007 a final report on environmental standards was presented by VOMIL (Curaçao) and also proposed for St. Maarten. We are still awaiting these most basic standards. In the meantime we have 24/7 pollution of our ponds, lagoon and ocean, where some of the precious reefs are already dying.

 

• Do we have proper sewage (beerput afvalwater) disposal? Not at all. In many areas sewage and other waste water is running in the streets and into the ponds and eventually in the ocean. The Caribbean Sea is becoming one of the more polluted seas in the world.

 

Bolding is mine.

 

gary

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I believe that there is still pollution in Great Bay. I've posted links and photos in the past, but the local newspaper has very recently modified their archive, and my old links don't work any more. I had links from last September and November, and will try to re-create them.

 

Here is a link from less than a year ago that you can read. It is an Earth Day Letter to the Dutch Parliament begging them to do something.

 

Here is the link.

 

Here are a couple of points from the letter.

 

Earth Day Letter to Dutch Parliament Apr 09

Caribbean Foundation for Sustainability

 

• Do we have basic environmental standards to protect the air, the soil and the water? On June 11, 2007 a final report on environmental standards was presented by VOMIL (Curaçao) and also proposed for St. Maarten. We are still awaiting these most basic standards. In the meantime we have 24/7 pollution of our ponds, lagoon and ocean, where some of the precious reefs are already dying.

 

• Do we have proper sewage (beerput afvalwater) disposal? Not at all. In many areas sewage and other waste water is running in the streets and into the ponds and eventually in the ocean. The Caribbean Sea is becoming one of the more polluted seas in the world.

 

Bolding is mine.

 

gary

 

Thanks for your posts. I will admit that the differing views is confusing and frustrating though. I have to ask though, and I know you didn't write the article, just posting some info from it, but if there is pollution and sewage, in general as an issue in St. Martin, how are the other beaches not affected as well?

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It's a matter of topography.

 

Take a look at this Google Earth shot:

 

th_Topography.jpg

(click)

 

All of the area inside the line drains down ultimately into Great Bay. The sewer system itself is deficient, and MUCH of the area is on septic systems (if anything) that sometimes malfunction or simply overflow.

 

Some of that runoff flows directly into Great Bay, near Bobby's Marina.

th_DrainageCanal.jpg

(click)

 

The rest of it runs down into either the 'Fresh' Pond or the Great Salt Pond (where the dump happens to be located). These two areas are 'flushed' from time to time, either manually by the use of pumps, or by nature when there is a lot of rain or major storm.

 

Here's a Google shot of the normal state of the canal, 80-90 yards from the bay and a shot when the flow is within 20 yards of the bay.

th_canalNov2005.jpg th_canalAug2005.jpg

(click)

 

This runoff flows into Great Bay through a canal at the opposite end of the beach, next to the Great Bay Hotel and Resort. Normally there is a sandy beach across the exit from that canal into the bay, but if flushing is necessary it is opened, either by bulldozers or by nature as the canal flows into the bay.

 

And then it pretty much just sits there. There is no natural purging of the bay or great movement of water because of its shape and location. My friend kal knows the scientific name of the condition, which evades me right now.

 

gary

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Here's a current example of the flushing I described in the second to last paragraph above:

 

th_greatbay.jpg

(click)

 

From the local newspaper The Daily Herald yesterday, Tuesday November 16th:

 

The canal close to Sonesta Great Bay Beach Hotel was opened on Monday to allow runoff from Fresh Pond to the sea, much to the chagrin of hotel management and guests. Dark water poured over the beach and into the, sea leaving tourists wondering what exactly was going on.

<snip>

Buncamper apologised to the hotel management for neglecting to give them prior notice so they could advise their guests to stay clear of the area.

 

Additionally, the phrase I was looking for from my friend kal is "enclosed embayment". He mentioned it in this related thread.

 

 

gary

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Thanks for posting the picture and the newspaper link. A picture is worth a thousand words. LMAO when I read the name of the pond. Someone has a sense of humor.

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Thanks for posting the picture and the newspaper link. A picture is worth a thousand words. LMAO when I read the name of the pond. Someone has a sense of humor.

 

We were at Great Bay two weeks ago, many people in the sea and all looked pretty good to me.

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We were at Great Bay two weeks ago, many people in the sea and all looked pretty good to me.

 

Did not look good to me on the 1st Saturday of August of this year. First and only time that I witnessed the brown sludge first hand. Yuck!

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Thanks to the invaluable Gary for posting the crud update. And even when the visible sludge gets diluted the invisible microbes still remain in the water.

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Yeah but "IT LOOKED PRETTY GOOD TO ME"! :eek:

 

My eyes must be failing me as I just have a hard time seeing toxins in the part per million range. :confused: Gotta get a new set of eye balls!

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I find it fascinating that the people that visit the island on a regular basis and keep up with the goings on on the island, who love the island and share the good and the not so good with others are so easily dismissed when bringing up a topic such as this. I have to say that it really surprises me that so many people who travel thousands of miles and many, many hours to get to an island such as St. Maarten are so upset that they have to take a 30 minute taxi ride to get to a fabulous Caribbean beach. Please keep posting the good with the bad because there are still visitors who want to make informed choices for themselves and their families.

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Here's a current example of the flushing I described in the second to last paragraph above:

 

th_greatbay.jpg

(click)

 

From the local newspaper The Daily Herald yesterday, Tuesday November 16th:

 

The canal close to Sonesta Great Bay Beach Hotel was opened on Monday to allow runoff from Fresh Pond to the sea, much to the chagrin of hotel management and guests. Dark water poured over the beach and into the, sea leaving tourists wondering what exactly was going on.

<snip>

Buncamper apologised to the hotel management for neglecting to give them prior notice so they could advise their guests to stay clear of the area.

 

Additionally, the phrase I was looking for from my friend kal is "enclosed embayment". He mentioned it in this related thread.

 

 

gary

 

Thank you so much for this information. I would much rather take a nice taxi ride to Orient than swim in THAT!

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I'm the original poster...we actually ended up doing the Snorkel Tiki Hut on our April cruise instead of our original plan to do the beach at port. I honestly could not tell you what it looked like at the time, just because I forgot but I do remember thinking how beautiful it looked (unlike the recent picture - ick). Not saying the the sludge wasn't there, just saying it wasn't visible.

 

I'm wondering if people (as in visitors/tourists) have reported becoming ill after swimming in that water? I guess it would probably be pretty hard to narrow down exactly what/where you got sick, though. Also, it just boggles my mind that the people of St. Martin allow their tourists and visitors to swim in that knowing that it is full of pollution and sewage. How can they get away with it?

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We were at Great Bay two weeks ago, many people in the sea and all looked pretty good to me.

 

I still won't swim in it. Bacteria don't wear large brown signs.

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Update, November 2011

 

Well, The Nature Foundation tested the water.

 

From the local paper, The Daily Herald, last week:

 

The Nature Foundation conducts water testing

 

PHILIPSBURG--Of the sites where St. Maarten Nature Foundation carried out water quality tests, results determined that at Cole Bay Lagoon, Kim Sha Beach, Mullet Pond and Great Bay there was a presence of various types of pollutants and sewage that can cause toxic algal blooms and mortality events (large-scale dying of fish, turtle and crabs) in wetlands and coastal areas.

<snip>

These tests are conducted twice a year to determine the levels of pollutants and other factors affecting wetlands and beaches in St. Maarten. Tests were carried out to determine nitrates, showing that the water is polluted; phosphates, showing the presence of sewage; nitrogen; dissolved oxygen; and the acidity of the water.

<snip>

It was determined that Simpson Bay Lagoon in Cole Bay, Kim Sha Beach, Mullet Pond, and Great Bay had medium levels of both phosphates and nitrates in samples tested. The highest level was recorded in Great Salt Pond, indicating the presence of numerous pollutants and sewage in the tested water.

<snip>

I believe that this proves that Great Bay exhibits pollution.

 

The Salt Pond has the highest test levels of pollution, and that was what was pumped into the 'Fresh Pond' and then through the cuts into Great Bay resulting in this:

 

th_greatbay.jpg

 

gary

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Thanks for the follow up on this issue.

Of course I still have a couple of questions. :o

Does Mullet Pond flow into Mullet Bay? Do you know if the water in Mullet Bay or Maho was tested?

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Mullet Pond is part of Simpson Bay Lagoon, near, but not linked to Mullet Bay Beach.

 

The areas I mentioned were all that were in the news article.

 

gary

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