As Tom McNichol pilots his motor boat past Soldiers Field Road, Harvard, and MIT, you wonder whether he’s full of it. The Charles River, he’d boasted before the trip, is always a mess after the annual July Fourth fireworks spectacular. “I guarantee trash,” he’d proclaimed. But the river looks clean — really clean — with barely a bottle cap floating by.
McNichol, captain of the Charles River Clean Up Boat, has been at this for 10 years, though. As he putts up to the Hatch Memorial Shell, a vast array of garbage comes into view: soda cans, coffee cups, candy wrappers, tennis balls, energy drink bottles, Tupperware containers, wine corks, even shoes, all floating amid the thickets.