The NYTimes reports today that the Charles River is clean enough to swim in. Well, sort of. Caveats:
No diving…lest that stir up the toxic sediment at the bottom of the river.
Do not expect to see the river bottom. The water is too murky.
Be prepared to encounter bits of flotsam and jetsam.
Toxic sediment? Doesn’t sound so good to me. I’d like to know more about the toxic sediment and how this river has been cleaned up. You too? Well, you’re out of luck because the rest of the article is largely devoid of any facts (other than the helpful fact that the river which once got a ‘D’ now gets a ‘B+’), and those it has are largely anecdotal or not related to actual safety. It does note that a swimming beach can’t be opened because of the sediment, without any more info on what the problems are. It’s not clear from the EPA what the sediment problems are either, although in the water they do find “carbamazepine (anti-seizure drug), diazepam (muscle relaxant), dilantin (anti-convulsant drug), gemfibrozil (lipid regulator), meprobamate (anti-anxiety drug), and oxybenzone (sun screen).” Hey, hey, lower your cholesterol and become very relaxed by a dip in the Charles river! .
The most irritating thing about this article is that it keeps the notion that you can tell whether a river is safe or not by looking at it:
“I’ll tell you, I’ve swum races in the Hudson, the East River and the Harlem River, and this is just as clean as them.”
And Sebastian Neumayer, 24, who won the race with a time of 21 minutes and 37 seconds, pronounced the mid-70-degree water just fine.
“I didn’t see any mattresses,” he said, “so it’s all good.”
And I’ll tell you this: It’s not all good. I’ll take the most opaque, muddy, mattress-filled, but toxics-free river over a clear river with toxic sediment any day.
PS I’ll admit that, sadly, the Charles has become probably the cleanest urban river in the US. That’s not saying much, though.