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Charles River Safe for Recreational Boating

By Malka A. Older

Recreational boating has resumed on the Charles River after boathouses were closed this week in the wake of a bacteria contamination scare.

After local press reported Saturday that a broken pipe in Newton had been spilling raw sewage into the river for several weeks, many boathouses shut down until they had ascertained the safety of the lower basin.

The Weld boathouse on Memorial Drive reopened Wednesday, according to Director of Recreational Rowing Dan J. Boyne.

Boyne said that while the river seems to be close to normal bacteria levels, his staff is still taking precautions.

"We've informed people what happened and we're keeping people downstream of the North Beacon Bridge," he said.

While Boyne said that "we didn't have too many takers the first day we were back," there were, in fact, several boaters out on the river yesterday.

The Harvard sailing center has also reopened for business.

"We've opened up and we're teaching lessons," said Michael G. O'Conner, sailing coach and manager of the sailing center.

O'Conner said that the sailing center, which has about 50 members, had to close down for the weekend and the beginning of this week.

"We've had one person come down and express interest in having their membership refunded," O'Conner said.

Other than that, he said, "it's cost us a couple of really nice sailing days."

O'Conner noted that most of yesterday's sailors did not seem overly concerned about the danger of bacteria.

"We haven't experienced anyone getting sick that we know of," he said. "Chances are that there hasn't been much more [bacteria] than usual."

"The fact [is] that this could have been going on for weeks prior to the media's discovery of it," said O'Conner. "'If it hasn't killed us yet it won't' seems to be most people's attitude."

Boyne commented that the problem is reminiscent of the Charles' history.

"The Charles used to be just as polluted 10 years ago," Boyne said. "People had to have tetanus shots when they fell in."

"A little scare like this is probably a good thing in the long run for the quality of the river," Boyne said, citing the increased awareness brought on by the publicity.

While Boyne emphasized that the water is safe for boating now, he also warned that those individuals experiencing health problems who have boated or been in the water over the past three weeks should get themselves checked immediately

O'Conner noted that most of yesterday's sailors did not seem overly concerned about the danger of bacteria.

"We haven't experienced anyone getting sick that we know of," he said. "Chances are that there hasn't been much more [bacteria] than usual."

"The fact [is] that this could have been going on for weeks prior to the media's discovery of it," said O'Conner. "'If it hasn't killed us yet it won't' seems to be most people's attitude."

Boyne commented that the problem is reminiscent of the Charles' history.

"The Charles used to be just as polluted 10 years ago," Boyne said. "People had to have tetanus shots when they fell in."

"A little scare like this is probably a good thing in the long run for the quality of the river," Boyne said, citing the increased awareness brought on by the publicity.

While Boyne emphasized that the water is safe for boating now, he also warned that those individuals experiencing health problems who have boated or been in the water over the past three weeks should get themselves checked immediately

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