I imagine that many of our readers have experienced the sinking feeling that I have right now. Three beaches in Puerto Rico do not meet water quality parameters; two of these are near and dear to my heart because I grew up contemplating their waters. The water quality section of the Environmental Quality Board [Junta de Calidad Ambiental (JCA)] on the island reported that the following beaches exceeded bacteriological parameters of water quality samples taken on Monday, July 7. These beaches exceed those following parameters: Crash Boat, in Aguadilla (photo below); Playa Mojacasabe, in Cabo Rojo (photo above); and Playa Buyé, in Cabo Rojo.
The JCA has implemented a monitoring program for beaches, which aims to reduce the risk of diseases to which bathers are potentially exposed. According to lawyer Laura M. Vélez Vélez, their main recommendation is that swimmers avoid primary contact with these bodies of water, because the pathogenic organisms (fecal coliforms and enterococci) that can cause diseases of the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and gastrointestinal system. Another essential piece of advice provided by the staff of the JCA is that after continuous rain, it is not recommended to enter these water bodies for a 24-hour period; people must also avoid bathing in parts of the beaches that are near the mouths of rivers and streams.
Crash Boat, Playa Mojacasabe (El Combate), and Playa Buyé: all three are spectacular beaches in western Puerto Rico. Aguadilla’s Crash Boat is towards the north and is a favorite because of its easy access; Playa Mojacasabe is better known as Playa El Combate (I call upon my Puerto Rican friends to please correct me if I am wrong) and offers miles of white sand with a choice of amenities and restaurants on one end and the wild blue/green yonder on the other; and, last but not least, Playa Buyé (which, in my heart, is the most beautiful of all) is a bit more difficult to reach, but has also been the least protected. Through the years, I’ve watched its coral reefs bleaching (though it still has a few of my favorite spots for snorkeling), its palm groves torn down to install sardine-box-style accommodations and frightfully ugly cement apartment buildings (I’ve been told that a few less offensive structures have been added); and its waters littered with beer cans and assorted debris.
But Playa Buyé (see photo below) remains intact in my memory. Playa Buyé is where I learned how to swim, snorkel, and appreciate the marvels of marine life—a veritable paradise after an early childhood cooped up in a Spanish Harlem apartment; it is also where I taught my son how to snorkel! Playa Buyé is where I encountered numerable adventures: from simple incidents like being chased by a bull when my cousins and I were gathering mangoes and tamarinds; to observing the wildlife around the Guaniquilla Lagoon (teeming with “magical” creatures fit for a García Márquez novel); to exploring some of the passages and chambers of Cueva Cofresí, a cave rumored to have housed a famous pirate (a Robin Hood in local lore) called Roberto Cofresí (last name derived from the Austrian von Kupferschein). Playa Buyé is where to dream about love was inescapable. I have countless memories of this area, but I am also convinced that Playa Buyé saved me from teenage angst and young adult depression; and, of course, all through my adult life, a dip in its warm waters has always been enough to relieve the stress of any burdens I may carry.
I was once told that I should not complain about the destruction of this enchanting place because I “don’t even live in the area anymore,” but I am relieved to know quite a few young people (Sirena, Veril, Andrea Solange, and others; you know who you are!) who give me hope, young people who are carrying out efforts to respect, protect, and teach about the treasures of our environment. I thank you.
For related article (in Spanish), see http://www.miprv.com/tres-playas-no-cumplen-con-los-parametros-de-calidad-de-agua/
For more information, go to http://www.jca.gobierno.pr/
[Photo of Buyé Beach from http://letsfoto.deviantart.com/art/Buye-Beach-94511248]