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Dept. of Health Warns of E. Coli Levels at Lake Superior Beaches

Updated: 07/24/2014 11:13 PM
Created: 07/24/2014 10:21 PM WDIO.com
By: Maarja Anderson

On warm summer days in the Twin Ports, Lake Superior is the place to cool off.

"The colder waters don't keep me away from Lake Superior!" said swimmer Ana Pratt.

But if you were at the beach near Park Point's S-curve Thursday, you may have noticed a sign saying water contact is not recommended.

The sign is warning that elevated E. coli levels have been identified at the beach.

In the excitement of getting to the beach, however, the sign can be easy to miss. Pratt snorkeled in the chilly water for about 40 minutes.

"I wish I had known ahead of time before I got in the water," she said.

The sign is just an advisory, people can still swim, but the Minnesota Department of Health, which does the Lake Superior Beach Monitoring program, said they wish people would heed their warning.

An epidemiologist with the department, Trisha Robinson, said when swimmers come in contact with E. coli bacteria, they can get skin infections, eye irritation, or worse.

"The most commonly reported water-borne illness we would see would be a diarrheal illness. That would happen when people would somehow ingest the water," said Robinson.

She said they check the water once or twice a week depending on the beach. Elevated E. coli levels means an advisory sign goes up until the levels go back down.

And Robinson warned, if you're sick, don't go swimming. Humans are often the culprit for bringing the bacteria into the water.

"Animals can infect the water, but often times it is swimmers ourselves that infect the water for other people," she said.

There is no way to predict contamination, so Robinson said swimmers this summer will just have to keep a look out for the signs.

The department sampled the water at the S-curve beach again Thursday. They'll get the results back Friday.

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