West Tisbury reopened Seth’s Pond to swimming Thursday

Oak Bluffs health officials gave Ink Well Beach a clean bill of health Saturday. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

The latest water test results for Uncle Seth’s Pond show that bacteria levels now meet the state standard, and the popular fresh water pond may be reopened to swimming, West Tisbury health agent John Powers said this morning, July 14.

The news was not so good for Lambert’s Cove Beach. Mr. Powers said test results remained unacceptably high for enterococci bacteria. As a result, the state Department of Public Health will now require the town to report several days of test results below the state standard.

Mr. Powers said he tested Lambert’s Cove early Thursday (July 14), but the state would not accept those results because of the previous night’s heavy rains. He said he would continue to test the water.

As for a probable cause for the elevated bacteria levels, Mr. Powers pointed to a recent opening in the barrier beach that separates nearby James Pond from Vineyard Sound. He said the opening is about 15-feet wide, and water is flowing freely.

Mr. Powers said he has not received the latest round of test results from the other closed beaches.

West Tisbury health officials closed six public and private beaches Wednesday, July 13, after the results of water quality tests taken Monday, July 11, showed high levels of enterococci bacteria, above the state standard for safe swimming.

West Tisbury closed the following beaches to swimming: Lambert’s Cove Beach and Salt Works Seven Gates Beach on Vineyard Sound, Uncle Seth’s Pond off Lambert’s Cove Road, Long Point Beach, Long Cove Pond, and Tisbury Great Pond beach, part of The Trustees of Reservations Long Point property on the Island’s south shore.

Last week, results from tests taken Tuesday, July 5 led the town to close Lambert’s Cove Beach, Uncle Seth’s Pond, Long Cove Pond, and Tisbury Great Pond beach to swimming on Thursday, July 7. The beaches reopened on Friday after test results showed bacteria at acceptable levels.

Oak Bluffs Tuesday evening (July 13) also announced beach closures. Mr. Powers said Cape beaches have also experienced high bacteria levels.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), enterococci bacteria are an indicator organism that may mean water is contaminated by fecal coliform bacteria.

High levels of enterococcus can cause skin irritation, vomiting, or diarrhea.

The Bureau of Environmental Health (BEH) posts beach water quality information on the Massachusetts Public Health Department website.

Water samples taken on July 5, showed enterococci counts of 1,553 colony forming units per 100 milliliters (cfu/ml) at the north end of Lambert’s Cove Beach and 548 cfu/100 ml at the south end, according to the department website. In marine waters, the accepted level of enterococci for a single sample is 104 colony forming units per 100 milliliters.

Samples taken on July 7, showed 40 cfu/100 ml. Samples taken on July 11, showed 1,553 cfu/100 ml.