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Summer Heats up E. Coli at Some Area Beaches

Updated: 08/12/2014 6:55 PM
Created: 08/12/2014 4:46 PM KSTP.com
By: Jennifer Ann Wilson

Two beaches in Minneapolis remain closed for high levels of E. coli.

A third beach, Lake Calhoun's 32nd Street Beach just re-opened last week after temporarily being closed due to E. coli levels being above the limit for state standards.

E. coli is present all the time in all of our lakes; it's even present in us since it's a natural bacteria in our intestines.

But this time of the year, health officials say you really have to be aware of this and how much you ingest.

"You have to intake a pretty significant amount of E. coli. So that's why they worry about it in the lake water because the lake, when it has a high level of E. coli, there's a higher risk that a smaller amount could actually make you sick," said Dr. Timothy Johnson, a researcher with the University of Minnesota.

Lake Calhoun’s Thomas Beach and Hiawatha beach have now been closed for more than a week. 

While it's tough to pinpoint the exact reason for the bacteria's extended spike, Johnson says levels of E. coli are often affected by rainfall washing trash and other things into the lake, and rising temperatures heating it all up.

When the sun is out, there's not much that can keep Minnesotans away from the beach.

“Yeah, we did know that there was E. coli in the lake so we have been informed,” Erin Linden said, while sunbathing on the sand.

“Since I'm not swimming or trying to get in the water, I'm fine with it, but kind of unfortunate for everyone who wants to be in the water,” Sarah Kendzior said.

Van Miller and his step son, didn’t know the water was contaminated, but the news didn’t ruin their sailing plans. “If he was going under water I'd be more concerned, he's wading out and getting on a boat and I think that's OK,” Miller said.

Johnson says E. coli itself isn't the only problem.

“It's just an indicator for the potential for other pathogens to be present in the water,” he explains.

Johnson says you could swim in contaminated water and not get sick. “If you do, it could be a variety of types of sickness. It might be gastrointestinal but it could also be respiratory, it could be skin infection...so you really don't know what you might get until you actually pick it up and acquire it.”

Johnson says your chances of getting sick are small swimming in a contaminated lake, he says it's still not worth the risk. He recommends finding another lake to swim in. 

The State Health Department says there have been no reported illnesses from E. coli in the lakes, but the summer isn't over yet and the warm temperatures we typically see in August could create a breeding ground for the bacteria.

See which beaches are closed and open in Hennepin County here.


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