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"Love that Dirty Water" No Longer Applies to the Charles River; Crews in Head of the Charles Regatta Can Expect Cleaner Water

Release Date: 10/22/04
Contact Information:

Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1008
Anna Eleria, CRWA (781-788-0007 ext 225)

For Immediate Release: October 22, 2004; Release # 04-10-25

BOSTON -- When the first gun sounds tomorrow, starting the 40th annual Head of the Charles Regatta, chances are that the water will be safe for the hundreds of top national and international crew teams that will be competing here this weekend. Despite rains earlier this week, the combination of dry weather since and only a slight chance of showers this weekend should make for clean, healthy water at race time.

This wasn't always the case. When the EPA launched its Clean Charles 2005 initiative in the mid-1990s, an effort to make the river safe for fishing and swimming by Earth Day 2005, the river was meeting safe boating water quality standards only 39 percent of the time. In fact, there was a time when any rower who fell into the river was advised to get a tetanus shot. Progress has been steady over the past nine years, and although water quality improvements have leveled off as the water has gotten cleaner, the results so far in 2004 have surpassed all prior years.

Since 1995, EPA has been measuring the progress of the cleanup based on water quality sampling done by the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA). Samples are collected on the third Tuesday of every month at one-mile intervals along the river. Through August of this year, the river has met boating standards at every sampling point on every day CRWA collected the samples.

"We've made tremendous strides turning a river that was once renowned for its filth in "Love That Dirty Water" into a safe, world-class recreational hot spot," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office.

"Head of the Charles participants can look forward to racing on a stretch of the river that is far safer than when the first regatta was held in the 1960s," added Robert Zimmerman, executive director of the Charles River Watershed Association. "These water quality improvements are the result of the hard work that national, state and local groups have done and continue to do to reduce stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflow discharges, the primary sources of pollution into the Lower Charles River basin."

For years during the rowing season, the watershed association has been flying color-coded flags indicating water quality in the lower basin. Blue flags tell boaters that the river meets acceptable bacteria levels, as set by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Red flags signal that bacteria levels may have reached unhealthy levels. Red flags usually fly after heavy rainfall when storm drains and sewer system overflows discharge pollutants into the river.

Despite rains earlier this week, water quality is predicted to meet bacteria-based boating standards this weekend.

Daily flagging results are posted on CRWA's web site at Click icon for EPA disclaimer.and CRWA's water quality hotline at 781-788-0007 x 301.

Related Information:
Charles River Initiative
Charles River Core Monitoring Reports (NERL)
Rivers and Watersheds