Head of the Charles

As America grew in the 1800 and 1900s, many of our waterways became incredibly polluted. Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River actually managed to catch fire on multiple occasions. Likewise, Boston’s Charles River was famously polluted by both sewage runoff and industrial wastewater. That impression of a foul waterway is now deeply engrained in the minds of locals, reinforced constantly by the oft-heard classic Standells’ song “Dirty Water”.

However, Herculean efforts made since 1995 have improved the river’s quality. Recently folks have even begun swimming in the Charles again, at least when water quality permits it. The EPA has tracked the steady improvement, now rating the Charles as one of cleanest urban rivers in America.

'I Swam The Charles' Bumper Sticker
[Photo courtesy of P. Kafasis]

Still, does anyone actually want to drink water from the Charles River? Boston-based beermaker Harpoon aims to find out. Their new “Charles River Pale Ale” contains a not-so-secret ingredient: 300 gallons of Charles River water. While locals are likely gagging and reflexively spitting at the very thought, Harpoon is assuring the public the suds will be both safe and delicious.

In fact, the water was treated by Desalitech, a local water desalination company, purified to make it ideal for drinking. So taking a little taste of the Charles, at least in this form, probably won’t kill you. And hey, if/when you survive the experience, you can wear a shirt in this vein:

Milton from Office Space in a shirt reading 'I Ate The Worm!!'
I Drank the River!!