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March 26, 2007

Beach: How I Reported the Story

To report "Bacteria Levels Under Control at Bloomington Beach," I began by searching for city council meetings.

Once I found one at an appropriate time in Bloomington, I researched the names and backgrounds of the current city council members.

I went to the city council meeting on a Monday night. I arrived about 15 minutes early.

There was a meeting going on in the council chambers, but I was allowed to sit down anyway.

There were copies of the evening's agenda set out, so I took one and read through it, noting issues that seemed interesting.

At the beginning of the meeting, Karen Zeleznak, the staff liaison for the Bloomington Advisory Board of Health, presented a long list of findings and summaries about issues the council had assigned the board to look into beforehand.

Zeleznak mentioned that a beach nearby--Bush Lake Beach--was being closely monitored and seemed to be at healthy levels again after a rise in E. coli last summer.

The mayor interrupted Zeleznak to ask her to clarify some points. The issue was already interesting to me because it dealt with public health, but when the mayor chimed in it became more so because he was obviously concerned with making sure residents knew that the beach was safe and the treatment worked.

There was not a lot of talk about what the treatment had been, so later that night I researched the city's Web page to find out what had happened.

The next morning I called Zeleznak and the city's Environmental Health Program Coordinator, Jeff Luedeman, to make sure I understood what the treatment had been and to verify that the beach would be open this summer.

Bacteria Levels Under Control at Bloomington Beach

An innovative treatment has reduced dangerous levels of E. coli at Bush Lake Beach to a level safe enough to open the beach for swimmers this summer, said Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead at a city council meeting Monday.

“I think that we were very successful at reducing the level of E. coli in the water,� Winstead said. He made his remarks after a presentation about current beach conditions from Bloomington’s Environment and Health advisor, Karen Zeleznak.

Warm weather, warm water and bird droppings all contributed to E. coli growth in 2006, causing the city to close the beach to all visitors for a portion of the summer season. The city council assigned the Advisory Board of Health to evaluate the situation.

Jeff Luedeman, the coordinator for Bloomington’s Environmental Health Program, said the city decided to try a new type of treatment for E. coli that attacked the bacteria where it is bred most: In the sand where seagulls congregate.

Between July 13 and Aug. 24 of last year, the city applied a diluted chlorine bleach solution onto the shore in a 12-foot swath from the water’s edge. Preliminary results show that the bacteria were reduced to well below the threshold required for beach closure.

The city expects Bush Lake Beach to remain open to swimmers this summer.

“City staff will continue to monitor water quality twice a week starting in late May through Labor Day weekend,� Luedeman said.

--Molly George

Stabbing in Popular Nightclub

A 20-year-old woman was stabbed at 1:15 this morning at a club in dowtown Minneapolis, reports Tim Halow of the Star Tribune.

Police say the unnamed victim had an argument with another woman earlier at the club Gay 90s. The woman later walked up the the victim while she was dancing with friends, then assaulted and stabbed her in the chest.

Hundreds of people were inside the club at the time, but police evacuated them so medical personnel could attend to the victim, who was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center.

Police arrested the suspect, a 21-year-old woman from Brooklyn Center. She has not been charged.

Police are also looking for a second suspect.

The Pioneer Press also covered this story. Nancy Yang wrote a very brief blurb (four sentences) about the stabbing and posted it on their Web site today at 7:13 AM. The Star Tribune's article was last updated at 11:04 AM today; the four hour difference is probably why there is such a notable discrepency between the two article's lengths.

It is also possible that the Pioneer Press may not have considered this story particularly newsworthy enough to garner more coverage.


March 20, 2007

Massive Pet Food Recall Shakes Owners

Ten pet deaths-one dog and nine cats-have been linked to a massive recall of canned food sold in North America.

The recall covers 60 million containers under 51 brands of dog food and 40 brands of cat food, including Iams, Nutro and Eukanuba.

"A small number" of cats and dogs have developed kidney failure after eating the affected products, said the Food and Drug Administration.

An investigation has focused on wheat gluten as the contaminated source, said Stephen F. Sundlog, an FDA veterinarian.

Menu Foods, an Emporia, Kan.-based company, said through a spokesperson it recalled the "cuts and gravy" products when reports of sick pets surfaced. The announcement is the largest recall for pet foods, said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota.


Missing Student's Body Found in Purdue Dorm

The body of Purdue University freshman Wade S. Steffey, 19, missing since Jan. 13, was found in a utility room at a dorm on campus.

Steffey was found in a high-voltage utility room in the Owen Hall dorm. He apparently died from accidental electrocution.

A utility worker discovered the body Monday when she was called to investigate a noise apparently coming from the room.

Purdue spokesperson Jeanne Norberg said that Steffey probably tripped over some wires while searching for his coat after attending a fraternity party over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

After Steffey went missing, large searches were organized and the dorms were checked, including the utility rooms. Norberg said the location of Steffey's body, hidden behind a transformer, would have made it difficult to see him. To completely check the room, Norberg said all power to the residence hall would have had to be shut off.

An independent investigation will continue.