Lake Superior beach monitoring resumes after Memorial Day
Beginning after Memorial Day, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) will be monitoring the water quality of 39 public beaches along the Lake Superior shoreline from Duluth to north of Grand Marais. Conditions of the beaches, including public notices to avoid contact with the water due to poor water quality, will be posted on the telephone hotline at 218-725-7724 and the www.MNBeaches.org website.
Staff from the monitoring program will check the water quality primarily for the presence of E. coli bacteria, which can be a health risk and an indicator of the possible presence of other potentially harmful pathogens or contamination. Samples will be analyzed once a week from 31 beaches while samples will be taken and analyzed twice weekly from eight of the most heavily used beaches in the Duluth area. The results will be posted immediately on the telephone hotline and the beaches website.
If the E. coli concentrations in water samples from a beach exceed certain standards, MDH staff or local designees will post an advisory on the beach and issue public notices through the website and other means. Typically the advisories recommend no water contact. Last year, of the 755 samples taken, 13.5 percent of them triggered water contact advisories.
Minnesota's Lake Superior shoreline has almost 80 public beaches or recreational water access points. The 39 beaches in the monitoring program are visited by thousands of people each year. A significant part of the state's coastal recreational waters are subject to contamination from a variety of sources. These may include wildlife and pet feces, storm water runoff, sewer line breaks and overflows, failing septic systems, dirty diapers, waste discharge from boats, swimmers and anglers, and animal feeding operations. This contaminated water is a potential cause of gastrointestinal illness and other diseases.
"The Lake Superior Beach Program is a collaborative effort supported by state and local health officials and citizens to address health risks to users of recreational waters on the lake's coast," said Amy Westbrook, program coordinator.
The program is funded through the national Beaches and Coastal Environmental Health Act of 2000. The Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District is sampling the beaches in Cook County.