New MPCA report calls for cleaning up bacteria that triggers health advisories at five Duluth-area beaches

Contact: Stephen Mikkelson, 218-316-3887

A new study by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) found that five beaches in the Duluth area experience spikes of E.coli bacteria, making the water unsafe at times for swimming or other recreation. While not as popular as the shore of Lake Superior on Park Point, the beaches are used for kayaking and swimming and require clean-up efforts, according to the report.

The Minnesota Department of Health, which monitors the water quality, posted a median of 11 advisories per year between 2014 and 2021 on these beaches:

  • Leif Erikson Park beach
  • Harbor Side of Minnesota Point 15th Street beach
  • Harbor Side of Park Point 20th Street/Hearding Island Canal beach
  • Park Point Sky Harbor parking lot beach
  • Boy Scout Landing beach on the St. Louis River

The beaches are all on the state’s list of waters that don’t meet water quality standards.

The bacteria reductions needed to meet water quality standards range from an estimated 4% at Leif Erikson Park Beach to 84% at Park Point 20th Street/Hearding Island Canal beach. Potential bacteria sources include stormwater runoff, wildlife and pet waste, possible leaks from sanitary sewer lines, inadequate bathroom facilities, illegal sump pump discharges, and more.

This report is the first beach total maximum daily load (TMDL) in Minnesota, but beach TMDLs have been developed and approved for other Great Lakes beaches. A TMDL determines the maximum amount of a pollutant a receiving water body can accept while still meeting water quality standards, and specifies the reductions needed among sources of pollutants.

The beaches are located in the area addressed in the Duluth Urban Area Streams TMDL report completed in 2020. Runoff from the Duluth urban watershed can affect the beaches, and in some locations, such as Boy Scout Landing, polluted streams can contribute to beach impairments. More study is needed, but E. coli may migrate via streams from areas far inland. Related to that, the Duluth Urban Area Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies report provides recommendations to address the impaired beaches.

Recommended clean-up strategies include addressing discharge of untreated wastewater, stormwater management, land use planning and ordinance development, education and outreach activities, and pet and wildlife waste management.

The public is invited to review and comment on the Duluth beaches TMDL draft report, which is available on the MPCA’s Public notices webpage. Submit comments to or request information from Lindsey Krumrie, 218-302-6605, 800-657-3864, MPCA, 525 Lake Ave. S., Suite 400, Duluth, MN, 55802 by 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

Written comments must include a statement of the respondent’s interest in the report, and the action requested of the MPCA, including specific changes to sections of the draft report and the reasons for making those changes.

Join a public meeting to review the Duluth Area Beaches TMDL report and how to comment. The meeting will be held via Webex, Tuesday, February 8, from 1 - 3 p.m.  Learn more on the Duluth Urban Area Streams web page.