Boston Beaches Back in the Swim

MORE people are enjoying Boston harbor waters than in recent years. As the summer progressed, swimmers and sunbathers came out in increasing numbers to enjoy Boston-area beaches.

Last weekend, Jantzen Inc., a clothing company based in Portland, Ore. that sells swimwear, sponsored a one-mile swim in South Boston to celebrate the improved waters of Boston Harbor.

Approximately 75 swimmers participated in the event. Proceeds will go to Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, an environmental group committed to improving and preserving Boston Harbor waters.

"We've heard stories from people who have visited the harbor - whether they swim in it, fish in it, or boat in it - that it has become cleaner over the last five years or so. But a lot of people don't realize it," says Janey Keough, office manager for Save the Harbor/Save the Bay.

Douglas MacDonald, executive director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, the agency that oversees the harbor cleanup project agrees.

"I think that now we're able to start telling that story because the television [journalists] go out to the beach and interview people out sitting on the beach and they say `Yeah, it's a lot different this year. The water is a lot clearer.' And that's much more telling than the scientists coming back with their samples. People know."

Richard Fay, a librarian at Harvard University, swims regularly in the waters of Boston Harbor, particularly in South Boston and in the town of Nahant, Mass. He has also competed in a number of swimming events in the harbor.

The overall water condition has improved, he says, but in some areas, "it's not clear water at all. You can't see the bottom."

Two years ago, he competed in a 10-mile swim in the harbor waters. Most of the trip went fine except at one particular point when he saw "lots of sewage around and a scummy film on the water. I knew something smelled funny and the people on the boat told me to cover my mouth."

But this year he has seen a marked improvement in the condition of the harbor water. "From the swimming I've done this year," he says, I can say it's defintely cleaner this year than two years ago."

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