McGREGOR — Testing results of water samples collected at eight locations on Big Sandy Lake in Aitkin County have shown that bacterial levels are safe.
“Because high water levels persist in Big Sandy Lake, and due to the potential for lake residents’ septic systems to be overwhelmed by the excess floodwater, we conducted water sampling Monday to measure bacteria levels,” said Heidi Bauman, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) temporary floodwater monitoring coordinator.
The bacterial levels were below that which was considered unsafe for human contact.
Water samples were collected Monday at locations with the most likelihood for public access or water contact. They are the Tamarack River and Big Sandy River inflow points on Big Sandy Lake, Bridge Road at Long Point Place, the narrow isthmus on 520th Lane, three private beach areas and/or boat launches on the lake’s northwest, northeast and southern-most points, and one private beach/boat launch on the southern tip of the eastern shore’s large peninsula.
These sampling locations were selected as representative of the entire lake by the MPCA’s contractor, Bay West, and an Aitkin County township official.
The MPCA took the unusual step of conducting water sampling in Big Sandy Lake, approximately eight miles north of the city of McGregor, because of the significant number of septic systems around the lake and the unusually high lake water levels. Untreated sewage from overwhelmed drain fields and mound systems could be incorporated into floodwater that disperses E. coli and fecal bacteria. If swallowed, these bacteria can cause intestinal distress.
People can call (218) 302-6660 for a recorded message that gives the locations of any lakes the MPCA has taken water samples from and are considered unsafe for human contact due to bacterial contamination. As of today no water bodies are on that list.
Anyone with concerns about how to protect themselves after contact with floodwater may visit the Minnesota Department of Health’s www.MNBeaches.org website. It offers a variety of precautions and actions people can take if exposed to water possibly contaminated by bacteria from untreated sewage.
Unless a new direct septic system discharge source becomes known, the MPCA will not continue to collect water samples at Big Sandy Lake.
For more information about how to manage flood-contaminated homes, cabins and businesses, visit the MPCA’s website at http://www.pca.state.mn.us.