In discussions regarding sewage discharge, it is often asserted that the risk of disease transmission
is low. I offer this local news item, and some backstory, as information.
Lake Minnetonka is really a chain of lakes, just west of Minneapolis, that was joined together by dredged channels in the late 19th century. Surface area is about 22 square miles, and there are about 125 miles of shoreline. It's freshwater, and this time of year temperatures near the surface are usually in the 70s. The lake is not a cruising destination
due to: the presence of 18 low bridges over the various channels, lake-specific regulations
that limit the number of overnights on any one vessel each year, and the absence of navigable connections to other bodies of water
Nonetheless, it is a major boating
attraction. Most of the boats on the lake are runabouts and pontoons, 18-24' in length, with a few cuddies and cabin
cruisers. Boats with more than about 14' air draft
can only navigate the eastern 1/3 of the lake (the "lower lake") due to bridges and, except for a few daysailers, are uncommon.
Young people, mainly in their 20s, tend to bring their boats and congregate behind Big Island, rafting their boats together, then wading, playing, drinking, and partying until after dark. There are videos on youtube that illustrate the typical atmosphere. It is not unusual for several hundred boats to be present. There are now marked fairways that must be kept clear for rapid access in the event of an emergency
, after a medical
snafu 20 years ago when the practice was for the rafts to become extremely large.
The island itself is a municipal park but has no facilities and does not permit
. The nearest marinas
do offer public toilets, but are located approximately 2 miles from the island.
It is rare for the runabouts and pontoons that show up at Big Island to have any sort of sanitary facilities aboard. They're just too small, too low, and too open for that to be practical.
Following festivities on the evening of July 4 this year, approximately 200 of these young revelers became ill with diarrhea or vomiting, apparently including many whose symptoms were not adequately explained by their beer
or 4 loko
intake. No one knows how many people were present, but I would speculate that this would be approximately 25-50% of the people who were there.
officials believe that the infections were caused by careless sanitary practices. No one knows whether this is due to overboard
discharge, the "warhammer maneuver," or, how shall we say, failure to shower
before entering the pool.
Big Island party scene plays part in outbreak, officials suspect - StarTribune.com