Keeping our beaches safe
Minnesotans love visiting lakes and beaches throughout the summer. But keeping an eye on water safety is increasingly important since climate change is expected to increase water-related illness. This is because more rain and runoff from agricultural and industrial sites can create conditions for water contamination.
Hennepin County Public Health is helping to reduce the risk of waterborne illness (illness caused by contaminated water). Each summer, between Memorial and Labor Day, staff sample and analyze the water at 31 public beaches to make sure it’s safe for swimming.
If Hennepin County Public Health determines that a beach is contaminated, they inform the beach owners (e.g., city, camps) that the beach should be closed. Check the map on hennepin.us/beaches for updates. Additional public swimming beaches not listed on the map are monitored by their respective cities or regional park authorities.
More about beach water testing
Nearly all waterborne illnesses are caused by organisms in untreated human or animal waste, introduced to the water directly or via rainstorm runoff. To measure the risk of illness, beach water samples are collected and analyzed for E. coli bacteria.
When E. coli levels exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, Hennepin County Public Health recommends beach closure until samples show a level in the acceptable range.
Other tips for staying safe at the beach
- Wait 24 hours to swim after a heavy rainfall
- Shower after being at the beach
- Don't swallow water
- Wash your hands thoroughly before eating and after using the bathroom
- Don't swim if you're sick or have a weakened immune system
- Put tight-fitting rubber or plastic pants on children who wear diapers or aren’t toilet-trained
- Take your children for frequent bathroom breaks
- Don't attract birds to the beach by feeding them
- Pick up your trash
- If you boat, properly dispose of waste
- Even if E. coli levels are normal, keep pets safe by being on the lookout for blue-green algae blooms.
For more information, or to report water-related illnesses, contact Hennepin County Public Health at 612-543-5200.