A major topic of Harvard cocktail party conversation--the smell of the Charles River--will be in jeopardy when a newly-announced sewage treatment plant on the Cambridge side of the Charles goes into operation.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will build the $4.3 million plant directly adjacent to the Boston University Bridge. A $1 million Federal demonstration grant will aid in the financing of the project.
Construction is expected to begin within six to eight months when plans are completed. The plant should be ready for operation in two years.
It will collect excess Cambridge sewage during periods of high sewage flow, such as after rain storms. Solids and sludge will be drawn from the water and the rest chlorinated before it moves into the river. The removed solid wastes will be sluiced back into the City sewage system.
The bulk of the plant will be underground. It will be about 400 feet long, 110 feet wide, and 40 feet deep. Only a 30 foot square structure on top will be visible to strollers on the Charles.
The plant could hold 233 million gallons a day and should function during about 20 overflow periods during the year.
Although the plant will take two years for completion, more immediate anti-pollution aid should arrive in the coming months when Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant is finished. Frederick Gow, of the Metropolitan District Commission's Construction Division, said yesterday that Charles water would be noticeably cleaner in the next four to five months as a result of the Deer Island plant. The Construction Division is in charge of both projects.
The problem of Charles River Pollution will still persist, however, though in reduced size. Other causes of river pollution which neither of the sewage treatment plants will correct include:
* large amounts of oil from the Cambridge streets which flow into the river in separate drainage facilities.
* salt entering the Charles River Dam each time its gates are opened.
* wastes from a number of mills and plants which drain directly into the river.
* farm wastes from the dairy farms which border the upstate rivers which feed the Charles.
Because of the money problem, these pollution factors may never be erased. As one Cambridge official put it, "It's cheaper to build swimming pools than to completely sanitize the river."
Still, the major problem of overflow street wastes should be handled by the new plant and it should help eliminate the dominant manifestation of Charles pollution--the smell. The Charles strollers, lollers, and crews will be happy and the cocktail party goers will be out of luck.