On Sunday night Feb. 23, Jeff T. Castellano '00, a heavyweight rower, was treated for blood poisoning at University Health Services. Although the sources of the infection are as yet undetermined, it seems likely that the cause was the heavily polluted water from the Charles River. We are deeply concerned that the danger posed to the students of the numerous Boston area schools is too great to compensate for Crew Cups. We hope that the City recognizes this threat to its many loyal students.
After developing open blisters during practice, Castellano's hands were exposed to the Charles River water. Soon thereafter, Castellano was diagnosed with a potentially lethal staph infection in his blood. Castellano explained that the coaches of the crew team remind the rowers often to clean their hands and sterilize the blisters because of the potentially dangerous water and, further, that he did not follow the coach's directions. John A. DeHoff '00, another first-year rower diagnosed with blood poisoning earlier this year, emphasized the scarcity of such infections: "A lot of people row on the Charles, and this doesn't happen often," he explained.
Although Castellano could have been more careful, the dangers inherent in rowing on the Charles are immense and often unavoidable. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared the Charles River 200 times too dirty for boating and 1,000 times too dirty for swimming earlier this year. Castellano explained that "there's not much you can do, when you're out there in practice and getting splashed all the time." It is telling that Governor William F. Weld '68 was rushed to a hospital after jumping into the river for a publicity stunt to prove its cleanliness last summer. If the Governor's health is not enough to speed up change, maybe the leverage of the crews and of the backers of the Head of the Charles can do it. They should speak out actively against the dangerous river waters. As there is nowhere else for Harvard and Radcliffe's rowers to practice and no infallible way to clean wounds short of soldering, it is incumbent on the University to push for a thorough cleaning of the Charles River. If improvements are not made soon, the sanity of our crew program's existence should be called into question.