Irresponsible ‘Soak A fete’ visitors create massive amounts of littering at Kim Sha Beach; Buccaneer Beach Bar, CC1, Meadowlands and DTF events cleanup other business’s trash

The Nature Foundation St Maarten was informed about a massive amount of littering which took place at the ‘Soak A fete’ last Sunday night despite the repeated remarks of the organization to visitors of the event to dispose their trash responsibly. Buccaneer Beach Bar, CC1, Meadowlands and DTF events did a great job cleaning up the entire beach, the Kimsha parking lot and several roads surrounding the beach. Nature Foundation applauds the initiative of the event to not provide any straws and only use biodegradable cups and hopefully other events will follow this initiative. However, unfortunately during cleaning up after the event mostly plastic cups and plastic straws were found, presumably taken by visitors from surrounding businesses.

“A ban on single-use plastics is very much needed in St Maarten and all businesses should move to reusable and biodegradable alternatives instead. People need to dispose their trash responsibly, which means in a trash bin and not on the beach, in the environment or on public roads. The event crew did an amazing job cleaning up the surroundings; unfortunately wind and rain probably already caused a significant amount of these plastic straws and cups to end up in our ocean and environment. Therefore we are asking all residents and tourists to dispose their trash properly and all businesses to move to reusable and biodegradable alternatives instead of single-use plastics” stated Nature Foundation Projects Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

St Maarten uses a remarkably high amount of single-use plastics every day, as plastic bags are given for free for every purchased item and plastic straws with any drink. Also takeout food in Styrofoam is standard and very popular, which also includes the use of plastic cutlery. The Nature Foundation calculated that Dutch St Maarten alone uses more than 1.4 billion plastic straws a year; straws are used for a few minutes and last forever in the local environment. These single-use plastics are some of the most environmentally damaging products on the island. These items do not biodegrade and stay in the ecosystem and oceans forever, causing impacts to the environment, animals and humans. Plastic releases harmful chemicals when it breaks down into smaller pieces that are ingested by marine life and eventually humans, new research even shows greenhouse gas production when plastic breaks down.

“To fight pollution and littering on our island, which is undoubtedly necessary, I already proposed the introduction of a cup return fee for several events on St Maarten. Which means you will purchase your cup at the start of the event and upon return of the cup you will receive your cup-fee back by the organization. Adding an important value to our trash, encouraging visitors of the event to reuse products and properly dispose your trash. People picking up cups from others can make some extra dollars for their next drink” explained Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

The Foundation is asking businesses and event organizations to contact the Nature Foundation if they would like to receive tips and tricks to reduce single-use plastics and look into other responsible alternatives.

Nature Foundation Applauds Legal Decision to Not Allow Parking on Great Bay Beach  Despite Ongoing Trend of Increase in Parking on Kim Sha Beach

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation is applauding the court decision last week in which the court found that parking on Great Bay Beach close to the Walter Plantz Square as illegal. Despite the ruling the Foundation is continuing to observe residents and tourist alike both parking and driving on beaches on the island, in particular on Simpson Bay Beach at the area popularly known as Kim Sha. “We are very happy about the ruling regarding the illegality of parking on the beach in Great Bay, and we believe it sets an excellent precedent in protecting and conserving what is our most important Natural Resource,” commented Tadzio Bervoets of the Nature Foundation.

While the Foundation applauds the ruling it is also highlighting the ongoing practice of parking and driving on beaches, in particular the part of Simpson Bay Beach popularly known as Kim Sha; “while we applaud the court ruling we would like to highlight that parking and driving on Kim Sha beach, which has been designated a tourist hot-spot, is still ongoing. We have noticed heavy equipment, cars, busses, trucks and ATVs all parking on and driving on the beaches. A car dealership also recently posted an advert of their cars parked on the beach’”, continued Bervoets.

Research has shown that driving and parking on beaches makes the beach more susceptible to overwash during storms and hurricanes. Parking and driving on beaches also causes erosion, negative health effects in beach users and impacts to beach flora and fauna. “Our beaches are faced with so many issues including water quality, pollution and now this. We really need to enforce the beach policy and have it written in legislation how our beaches should be protected,” concluded Bervoets.

truck on beach
Truck parked on Kim Sha Beach on Monday morning

Nature Foundation Conducts First Water Quality Assessments of Wetlands and Beaches Since Hurricane Irma. Has Serious Concerns Regarding Water Quality at Kim Sha Beach

taking water sample

The Nature Foundation carried out water quality tests at seven sites surrounding St. Maarten. These tests, which were conducted for the first time since the passage of Hurricane Irma, were carried out in order to determine the levels of pollutants and other factors affecting wetlands and beaches on St. Maarten.

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Tests were carried out in order to determine

  • Nitrates (which shows that the water is polluted),
  • Phosphates and Coliform Bacteria (which shows the presence of Sewage),
  • Nitrogen,
  • Dissolved Oxygen, and
  • the acidity of the water.

Tests were carried out on seven sites; Cole Bay Lagoon, Simpson Bay Lagoon, Mullet Pond, Kim Sha Beach, Great Bay Beach, Belair Pond, Fresh Pond, and the Great Salt Pond. The sites of Great Bay Beach and Kim Sha Beach were particularly chosen to test the swimming quality of the beaches.

Phosphate and Nitrates

It was determined that the sites Cole Bay Lagoon, Kim Sha Beach, Mullet Pond, and Great Bay had medium to high levels of both phosphates and nitrates in samples tested. Elevated levels of nitrates and phosphates show that there is a presence of various types of pollutants and sewage which can cause toxic algal blooms and mortality events (large scale dying of fish, turtle and crabs) in wetlands and coastal areas. The highest level was recorded in the Great Salt Pond and indicates the presence numerous pollutants and sewage in the tested water. Considering this, water quality levels will regularly be monitored by the Nature Foundation.

Nitrogen

It was further established that the sites Cole Bay Lagoon, Kim-Sha Beach, Mullet Pond, and Great Bay had low to medium levels of Nitrogen in samples tested. Elevated levels of Nitrogen, caused by pollutants, can cause massive fish die-offs in wetlands and coastal areas. The highest level was recorded in the Great Salt Pond at .6 ppm, which is a relatively high number and indicates the presence of elevated nitrogen levels. This can pose a threat to aquatic organisms and which may result in fish die-offs.

Oxygen

Almost all levels of oxygen recorded were at sufficient levels; however the lowest level was recorded in the Great Salt Pond and Belair Pond. These sites should be closely monitored for a further drop in oxygen levels which may result in fish kills and breeding of airborne insects (i.e. Midges).

Bacteria and Sewage

There is concern that four of the seven sites tested positive for the presence of coliform bacteria, an indicator for the presence of sewage as mentioned. Cole Bay Lagoon, the Great Salt Pond and the Fresh Pond all showed presence levels of coliform bacteria. Particularly worrying is the presence of coliform indicators at Kim Sha beach, which has been designated as a tourism focal point post Hurricane Irma. The Nature Foundation suggests lab-level testing to establish the level of coliform bacteria at particularly Kim Sha Beach. Great Bay Beach showed an absence of coliform bacteria indicators.

Despite the fact that many sites showed Medium readings, the Nature Foundation will follow up on a monthly basis to carefully monitor for changes in the respective levels.

taking water sample
Water quality samples being taken at Great Bay;
water sample result tube
Water quality sample from Kim Sha beach showing a positive result for Coliform Bacteria