Safe to swim? No health hazards with high water


With a hot and sticky day forecast for Tuesday, it's a perfect day to seek out a beach. But is the water safe after the heavy rainfall and subsequent runoff?

The Sun Sailor, the community newspaper that serves west metro communities around Lake Minnetonka, reported that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says the popular lake is safe. On June 1, wastewater was discharged into the lake following a massive downpour; the public was advised to keep away from lake water near the discharge points. Those discharge points have been sampled several times and samples have returned to normal bacteria levels.

KSTP reported the Hennepin County Public Health Department tests lake water at 31 beaches every Monday to make sure the water is safe. (The county website indicates all beaches are now safely open. You can check their findings here.) E. coli presents the biggest threat, with unusually warm water, animal droppings, sewage discharge, bacteria from soil, runoff and rainfall creating concern about contamination.

"After the rain, we see fertilizer, all that pollution going into the storm drain ending up at the beach," said Amanda Buell, an environmentalist with Hennepin County.

The Centers for Disease Control suggests waiting 24 hours after a heavy rainfall before swimming and recommends showering after a day at the beach.

It's not health hazards that are keeping boaters off the water. FOX 9 reports high water levels continue to impose no-wake restrictions on all of Lake Minnetonka. Monday's water level was 1.2 inches below the record high 930.66 feet set on June 3, but the lake is not dropping fast enough to allow boaters to cruise the waters.

Kara Owens, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told the station that several other Minnesota lakes continue with their no wake restrictions.

"Prior Lake down in Scott County is 'no wake,' the St. Croix River is 'no wake,' and the locks and dams are now closed for recreational and commercial traffic," she said, adding that the forecast will determine when the restrictions will be lifted.

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