Water quality monitoring on Lake Superior beaches typically starts at the beginning of the summer, but this year, because of staffing issues at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the work was contracted out, and testing didn’t begin until last week. Anne Moore is a public information officer with the MPCA:
“Beach testing in Lake Superior just started on August 18th. Cook County has 11 sites that we monitor for, and from what all indications are, the water quality at those 11 sites met Minnesota water quality standards,” says Moore.
Some beaches in Duluth did not meet water quality standards, however, due to elevated levels of E coli bacteria, and the agency posted warnings for Leif Erikson Park Beach, Park Point New Duluth Boat Club and Hearding Island Canal Beach on Friday. Elevated levels of E coli can make swimmers sick and may also indicate the presence of other disease-causing pathogens in the water. But whether or not an advisory has been posted for a particular beach, the MPCA recommends that in general, swimmers avoid going in the water for 24 to 48 hours after a big storm.
“It’s just a good idea, to protect your own health, just to stay out of the water,” says Moore. “We recommend that, no matter where a person is, because the sediments can end up filled with bacteria, and the storm will churn up the sediments and re-suspend them and that’s how people can get sick.”
More information about the beach testing program is available on the MPCA website.
“You can go on the website itself, and there’s some really wonderful information that we’ve developed over the years to help give you a good background about the likely sources and the ways that people can protect themselves, not only from being exposed, but then also from causing any bacteria exposure, if they bring their dogs down to the lake, for example, to clean up after them.”
The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act, an amendment to the Clean Water Act, was passed in October of 2000, and required states that border coastal or Great Lakes waters to develop beach monitoring and public notification programs. The BEACH Act also authorized EPA to award grants to states, localities, and tribes to develop comprehensive beach monitoring and public notification programs for their recreational beaches. Water quality monitoring of Lake Superior beaches began in 2003, and is a cooperative effort of the MPCA, the Minnesota Department of Health, and other state and local agencies. For more information, visit mnbeaches.org.