Will Head Fans Find Charles Clean?

Sludge in the River

With the Head of the Charles Regatta slated for Sunday, many people are still wondering whether the Charles River will be ready for company. Will the smell of sewage near the Larz Anderson and Boston University Bridges be gone?

Early in October, members of Harvard crew team began to complain to terrible stenches along certain stretches of the Charles which they pass by frequently.

The complaints took on an added significance, considering that more than 200,000 people would soon be lining the River's banks for the nation's premiere fall regatta, in which some of the nation's and the world's best oarsmen are set to compete.

Public authorities two weeks ago asserted that the stench would be gone in time for the Head. At that time, Leanne DelVecchio, a representative for the Metropolitan District Commission, speculated that the smell had been caused by a sewer cleaning effort by the Cambridge Department of Public Works (DPW).

DelVecchio said that the pipe that enters the Charles next to the Anderson Bridge is controlled by the DPW and is used in cases in which the sewer system overflows from excess rainwater or system problems.


When contacted again this Wednesday, officials repeated that the DPW had finished working in the area that may have forced the Anderson Bridge pipe into use, and that the smell would consequently disappear.

Timothy Watkins, an engineer who had been dispatched to the area by the Cambridge DPW to check the situation, said that there was nothing out of ordinary with the working of the pipe known officially as Combined Sewer Overflow number nine.

But on Thursday, one could still see a black, filmy substance coming from the submerged pipe and smell a foul stench emanating from the area.

Harvard crew team members say that while the smell is not as consistently bad as it was earlier in the month, it remains potent.

"It's been pretty normal except for one wretched day last week. I couldn't believe how bad it was. We were going under the bridge and I was assaulted by an awful smell," said Eric LeVine '91, a heavyweight coxswain.

Meanwhile, the drainage basins at the intersection of Memorial Dr. and John F. Kennedy St. still have not been cleaned out. The basins, which are filled with stagnant water and garbage were scheduled to be cleaned out last week.

Sewage destined for the river is supposed to be treated with chlorine first, said Patricia Baker, a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority official. She said she did not know whether the residue near Anderson Bridge had been properly treated because the city, not the Authority, controls that pipe.

According to Mortimer Buckley '91, a member of the heavy weight crew team, the condition of the river was its all time worst for the 1981 Head of the Charles, in which he rowed as a high school entrant. Since then, "They have cleaned up a good amount of the debris floating around," said Buckley.

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