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Charles River Bacteria Levels Soar

Pollutants Now 1,000 Times Higher Than Limit for Safe Swimming

By Douglas M. Pravda

If you are thinking of rowing or sailing on the Charles River, you might want to think again.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said tests during the last 10 days have revealed bacteria levels in the river more than 1,000 times the level that would make the river unsafe for swimming and 200 times greater than the allowable level for boating, according to the Boston Globe.

The high levels of fecal coliform bacteria, which were found in Milford, Mass., are likely the result of raw sewage entering the river, according to the EPA.

Although Milford is a little more than a half hour's distance from Cambridge, the contamination in the Charles River could spread downstream toward Cambridge and Boston.

The EPA, which is trying to make the Charles River swimmable and fishable by the year 2005, has been investigating pollution near Milford for several months since environmentalists first warned Milford officials about raw sewage about a year and a half ago.

Milford has discussed upgrading local sewers and removing illegal sewer connections, according to the Globe.

The report of the River's contamination is bad news for Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld '66, who jumped in the Charles this summer after signing a bill to protect the state's watersheds.

The raw sewage is just one of many problems the EPA has encountered as it tries to make the Charles swimmable and fishable. An oil spill earlier this year spread more than half a mile over the Charles River. Boston University assumed full responsibility for the oil spill, which was estimated at under 1,000 gallons by the EPA.

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