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Mucky day: Daredevil activist returns to Gowanus Canal for Earth Day dip • Brooklyn Paper

Mucky day: Daredevil activist returns to Gowanus Canal for Earth Day dip

Sludgey strokes: Activist Christopher Swain swam the Gowanus Canal on Sunday to push for its long-awaited scrub.
Photo by Jason Speakman

He lapped this s— up!

An environmentally conscious daredevil once again swam the dank Gowanus Canal on Sunday in a stunt to raise awareness for Mother Nature on Earth Day.

And the water smelled just as pungent as he remembered — despite claims that its levels of feces decreased over recent years — according to the activist-athlete, who in 2015 set a record as the first person to swim the length of the toxic canal and once described paddling in it as “swimming through a dirty diaper.”

“I could smell poop and gas, and I bumped into trash,” said Christopher Swain. “You can see visible sewage, and a rainbow sheen on the water from the oil.”

Swain said he dove back into the 1.8-mile waterway tainted by chemicals, raw sewage, sexually transmitted diseases, and animals’ corpses to encourage a speedier cleanup of the canal roughly 18 months after Environmental Protection Agency officials began its federally led scrub, which has already faced delays.

“People say it’s crazy I’m swimming in here, but what’s crazy is that it is not clean enough to swim in — and I’ll keep going until it is,” he said. “I’m proposing a pristine waterway, one safe for swimming every day. We got a long way to go.”

Brooklyn’s toxic avenger — who floated through other contaminated channels including Newtown Creek and the East River following his first successful canal swim — covered his body in petroleum jelly and threw on a protective drysuit, earplugs, a silicone cap, gloves, boots, and goggles before taking to the muck, where he propelled himself from the Hamilton Street Bridge to the Third Street Bridge as a kayaker paddled close behind to monitor his progress.

And elsewhere on the Gowanus Canal, the Feds recently restarted a pilot program to dredge the so-called black mayonnaise from its floor and then cap the ground to prevent further chemicals from seeping in. And officials are in the process of installing signs warning local anglers of the dangers of eating fish hooked in its murky waters.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Washing off: Swimmer Christopher Swain rinses himself with clean water after taking a dip in the fetid canal.
Photo by Jason Speakman

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