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On Soiled Charles, Crews Get Going

EPA Says Water Is Unfit For Boating, But H-R Boats Start Practice Anyway

By Eunice C. Park

Crew season is a fixture of fall at Harvard. The Harvard and Radcliffe boats are perennially strong, and the image of them gliding swiftly over the Charles River has become a postcard cliche.

But this year it seemed that the tradition might be in danger.

The level of pollution in the river has caused environmental and health concerns for decades. Recently, however, the safety and well-being of those who use the Charles for recreation and sport have become serious issues.

Earlier this year, an oil spill spread over the river. But the primary problem may be raw sewage entering the river.

Environmental Protection Agency tests during the summer revealed potentially dangerous levels of bacteria, not only for swimming but for boating as well.

However, Harvard rowers do not seem to be alarmed. Crew practice started yesterday.

"Nobody is too concerned," said a crew member who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We went out today, and there was nothing noticeable, no smell or anything. The sailing teams are out too."

The member believed that even first-years and new rowers should have no cause for worry.

"When you're learning to row, you don't fall in. People do go swimming off the dock, and freshmen have been thrown in the water before, but no one's ever been sick."

"During the summer, people got sick about two to three miles upstream, but that was in 90-degree heat. If it were really dangerous, the police would be shutting down the sidewalks around there."

Senior lightweight crew captain Ryan Wise concurred.

"One or two people a year fall in the river, so it's not a major concern," Wise said. "We're all aware of it and are talking about it some, but the Charles is infinitely cleaner now than it was a decade ago."

So the tradition will continue; Harvard crew has no fear.

Just don't drink the water.

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