Lake Nokomis beaches now open

The beaches at Lake Nokomis opened on Thursday, September 7, 2019. According to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), that date marks the passing of three incubations periods since the last reported exposure date of patrons who became ill from a strain of E. coli after swimming in the lake between July 16 and August 11.

Although patrons may now enter the water, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) beach season ended on Labor Day. This means lifeguards are no longer on duty and all swimming docks and buoys are being removed throughout the system.

Both Nokomis beaches were closed on August 13 at the request of the MDH after it confirmed three cases of a strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli in three children who swam at Lake Nokomis beaches in Minneapolis in late July or early August. The MDH had 73 reports of illness through late August (three were laboratory-confirmed), and no hospitalizations were reported.

The closure at Lake Nokomis was caused by a specific type of E. Coli that is not discoverable through routine water quality monitoring. Monitoring takes place during the MPRB’s beach season, typically from Memorial Day through Labor Day. With beach season now ended, water quality testing has been discontinued for the year.

Previous weekly testing had not indicated high levels of E. coli at either of the Lake Nokomis beaches. The elevated E. coli levels reported by the MPRB at other MPRB beaches is commonly caused by rain, stormwater runoff or waterfowl. This incident was the first time in more than 25 years that any MPRB beach has been closed due to illness.

Tips for Preventing Recreational Water Illnesses (from the MBRB and MDH)

For the 2020 beach season, the MPRB will emphasize the importance of common sense, good safety practices when at the lake or beach. These include:

  • Avoid entering lakes for 24 – 48 hours after rainfalls of more than .5” as stormwater runoff can cause high bacteria counts.
  • Do not go into the water if you are sick, especially if you have experienced diarrhea in the past week.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • If possible, wash your hands or shower before and after swimming.
  • Take children on frequent bathroom breaks when swimming – waiting to hear “I have to go” may mean that it’s already too late.
  • Change diapers in changing rooms, not on the beach. Wash your hands and the child’s hands after changing diapers.
  • Dispose of trash and animal waste properly.
  • Don’t encourage waterfowl by feeding ducks, geese, seagulls, or other birds.

For questions about the confirmed illnesses, please contact the MDH at 651-201-5414.