Update: Owen Little Way Beach closed again

Owen Little Beach is closed temporarily by order of the board of health. — George Brennan

Owen Little Way Beach, the Tisbury-owned beach located next to the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, has closed again as of Wednesday, August 18. The beach is closed due to an increased risk of high bacteria levels after “measurable rainfall,” according to an advisory from the Tisbury board of health. The board advises people to avoid swimming in the beach for the next 24 hours.
The beach was reopened on Friday after an earlier closure. The closure came during a stretch of hot and humid weather.
“Water at bathing beaches throughout town is sampled weekly to ensure that the water remains safe for swimming. The samples are tested for the indicator organism enterococci. Enterococci are indicators of the presence of fecal material in water and, although they are typically not considered harmful to humans, their presence in the environment may indicate that other disease-causing agents such as viruses, bacteria, and protozoa may also be present,” the original announcement stated.
According to the previous announcement, “On Monday, August 9, during the heavy rains, a sample collected at the beach at Owen Little Way tested high at 2,000 colonies per 100 ml. The beach was posted as closed when we received that test result, and follow-up samples were collected. The sample collected on Tuesday, August 10, tested at <10 colonies per 100 ml, and the posting was removed. To be on the safe side, two additional samples were collected, and they came back at 41 and 20 colonies per 100 ml. Although the past three samples collected have been under the 140 colonies per 100 ml threshold considered safe for swimming, the geomean average of the most recent five samples currently exceeds the allowable limit of 35 colonies per 100 ml, and the beach must be posted. Additional samples have been collected, and the posting will be removed as soon as the geomean is under 35.”
“We understand that beach closures are inconvenient and may disrupt your plans, but the health and safety of our residents and visitors is our highest priority,” the announcement states. “Rest assured the beach posting will be removed as soon as the geomean meets the standards.”
The new advisory will be posted at the beach entrance. 


  1. The problem at Owen Little Way goes beyond a weekly test and is the product of neglect.
    There is a culvert that empties directly into that small enclosed swimming area. All run-off goes into the water and often lingers for more than day. It is not a matter of one type of bacteria, there are many that are too expensive to reasonably test. Town needs to hire an environmental engineer with experience in dealing with circumstances of this sort. That same engineer can help consult in the design for a dock, which select men have promised for two years. Town officials are not personally responsible for these conditions- they have inherited them. However, fixing them is their responsibility and waiting till the season’s end to get started is not okay. I swim at that beach, or did daily. I also have a bacterial infection from that same locale. I urge my neighbors to swim where the water is open and our Town government get serious about the culvert.

  2. I have just heard in the past few days from Tisbury Town Manager John Grande and our Town government is moving aggressively to address the culvert and the many of the issues they have inherited at Owen Little Way. Their work is engaging all Town Departments and outside consultants to dredge, back-fill, cleanse, design and build a dock and do everything possible to address the runoff and bacteria from the culvert. They are underway. I will leave to our Town government to report the details to the citizens of the Town. I would still urge caution for bathers, especially and rain fall. I regret writing that. I have used that beach a thousand times over the past 33 years but next year we’ll be entering the water from a new dock and it will be a new day for our Town Beach at Owen Little Way.

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