Its open. Its closed. Its open. Its closed.
The yo-yo announcements of the swim beach in Minnetonka Beach took another turn on Tuesday afternoon when Hennepin County announced the closing of the beach again for higher than acceptable levels of e-coli that was detected after testing on Monday.
This comes just a week after Hennepin County closed the beach and than re-opened the beach just two days later.
The beach was first closed this summer on Tuesday, June 8 and wasn’t re-opened until a week later on Tuesday, June 15. It was closed again on Tuesday, June 22 but was re-opened just two days later on June 24 before getting closed again this on Tuesday.
Hennepin County tested the beach on Monday, June 28 and closed the beach after the higher than acceptable levels of e-coli in the water. The county tested again on Wednesday to determine if and when the beach can open up again.
So why is the beach being closed because of e-coli?
According to a release from Minnetonka Beach, there are many factors of why the E. Coli levels reported are higher than acceptable including: water runoff containing animal, and fowl waste; lake bed being disturbed by high winds, wake boarding and increased boat traffic in Lafayette Bay; the lake bed naturally has E.coli that if disturbed will negatively impact the water testing results; high level of weeds drifting to shore this season; and unseasonably high temperatures that resulted in dozens of fish being washed up onshore.
Since 2004 Hennepin County has tested the water for E. coli the swim beach every Monday morning from Memorial to Labor Day. If the Colony Forming Units (CFU)/100ML count is less than 235, the beach is considered safe to swim in. If not, the beach is closed and retested on Wednesday. Minnetonka Beach has failed one test per season over the last 5 years. The CFU counts on those dates have been 1046, 344, 816, 325 and 1046. The average reading for the other weeks over the five years has been below 50 CFUs-well below the safety threshold. This year Minnetonka Beach has failed three tests in the first month with results fluctuating wildly; 1700, 350, 26, 2419.6, 41 and 2419.6.
The release continued, the Park Commission has been closely monitoring the e-coli levels at the swim beach and has been working with the DNR and MN Dept. of Health to gather information. E-coli levels were very high when the temperatures were near 100 degrees for several days in a row. There is a direct correlation between e-coli levels and heat. Water is tested every Monday and allowable e-coli levels are about 235 colonies/100mL. The heat drove the readings to 2,419 colonies/100mL. They dropped to 41 colonies/100mL once the heat wave ended. Another factor is wind. There were some very windy days at the same time as the heat and wind also affects e-coli levels. Both of these bring materials up from the bottom of the lake, which can be dirty for many nature-related reasons that cannot be controlled by humans.
The Park Commission assigned the task of geese control to Vice Chair Katie Norman. She has spent a lot of time talking with geese control experts and other cities over the past few years. There are many options, but few are effective and Mother Nature is very difficult to control.
The City of Wayzata tried Dori poles but found them ineffective and Minnetonka Beach residents did not want the swim beach full of flags. Euthanizing geese has been discussed but it is expensive, not within the Parks budget, and opposed by a number of residents. Additionally, once a group is removed, another may move in.
The one thing that can be controlled is geese nesting and having their babies at the beach, the release said.
To control the geese nesting, Minnetonka Beach is trying to control that with strobing solar lights that keep them up at night, making them unable to sleep or procreate. The geese that are born at the beach tend to come back for about three years. They have been testing the solar lights for two years and will continue to test this to see if the concept proves to be effective.
Each summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Hennepin County Public Health samples and analyzes the water at local public swimming beaches at least once per week. Beach water inspections help prevent the spread of waterborne illnesses and keep beaches safe for recreation and swimming. The county has the authority to close contaminated beaches.
Hennepin County’s interactive beach map shows the current water status of local public swimming beaches, including whether they’re contaminated and closed. It includes beaches that are monitored by other jurisdictions like cities or regional park authorities. Find the map at hennepin.us/beaches.
To keep beaches safe, it’s important to practice healthy swimming. People with a diarrheal illness should avoid swimming in public pools or lakes, sharing baths with others, and preparing foods for others. Learn more from the Minnesota Department of Health.