Toxic avenger! Activist to swim Gowanus

The Brooklyn Paper
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He’s going up s---’s creek!

A clean-water activist plans to take the ultimate plunge on Earth Day, swimming 1.8 miles through Brooklyn’s nautical purgatory — the Gowanus Canal.

Serial activist Christopher Swain will don a drysuit and traverse the canal from its “source” near Butler Street between Bond and Nevins streets to New York Harbor to call attention to the slow-moving federal cleanup of the canal and its surrounding neighborhood.

Swain announced today that he will hop into the Canal on April 22 covered from head to toe in protective gear to keep his skin, mouth, eyes, and ears free of the murky waters that famously hides victims of the mob, is covered with oil, laced with heavy metals, flooded with millions of gallons of raw sewage every year, and even has gonorrhea.

The Canal is also home to schools of Coney Island Whitefish as well as a 10-to-15-foot base of mercury-laden “black mayonnaise,” and despite the fact that things have gotten less smelly since a flushing tunnel began pumping oxygen-laden water into it back in 1999, the federal cleanup is still more than a decade from completion.

This stunt is not Swain’s first fishy swim. He brought attention to his aquatic cause by swimming the 315-mile length of the Hudson River.

But Swain wouldn’t be the first mammal to attempt a swim through the canal (something we are still trying to determine the legality of). Numerous dolphins have gone there to die, as did the famous whale Sludgie, who took his last breaths there, and whose bones are now part of an educational exhibit that, we hope, warns animals with hair of the dangers of swimming in such a polluted body of water.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Charles from Bklyn says:
Good cause; brave man. May Mr. Swain rest in peace.
April 20, 2015, 2:01 pm
ty from pps says:
So... What happens if his dry suit is punctured? There are many many ways to bring attention to this and other waterways. Seems way too dangerous.
April 20, 2015, 7:05 pm
Toxic from Gowanus says:
10-to-15-foot base of mercury-laden “black mayonnaise - enough said. This canal was built for industry and continues to used for industry.
April 20, 2015, 9:20 pm
President Carroll from Prospect Lefferts says:
Can we please just drain the canal and turn it into a park & bazaar, a la High Line?
April 20, 2015, 10:13 pm
Thorina from Slope-ish says:
I hope he changes his mind.
April 21, 2015, 12:15 am
That guy from Park Slope says:
Not only is he raising awareness for Earth Day but Hepatitis A through Z.
April 21, 2015, 12:57 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I hate to tell people they should protest things I care about more than what they care about... but "the federal government is cleaning up the canal, but not very fast" just seems so far down the list of things you could protest, even that the federal government has to do with in Brooklyn.
April 21, 2015, 8:49 am
Meh from Gowanus says:
As far as superfund sites go, EPA is moving swiftly and they would be closer to starting the work had the city administration and others not delayed the process in their attemp to prevent the superfund designation. The city is still trying to throw a monkey wrench into the process and wasted time and money on finding alternative sites for the retention tanks. As a city council member de Blasio opposed the canal's designation as a superfund site and he still does. Perhaps this is where the focus should be rather than on the EPA.
April 21, 2015, 9:30 am
what? from Brooklyn says:
Does this canal really need anymore attention?

- Bodies have been long DUMPED in it.
- For decades, NYC has openly POLLUTED it. (and still does)
- Multiple community groups have been SPAWNED to stop them from doing it.
- Bloomburg FAILED to clean it.
- EPA IS cleaning it.
- Whales and Dolphins have DIED in it.
- Lightstone is BUILDING on it.

Who really cares if some wacko tries to swim in it. After all of us have had to suffer and patiently wait all these years, he's out of turn in jumping in before all of this communities good work is done.

Can't he just wait his turn - get in line dude, it's a long one!
April 21, 2015, 9:43 am
TOM from Brooklyn says:
Remember the guy out west who lay done on the RR tracks to protest the logging train? You know, Ole Stumpy?

Can DOH&MH or Special Services for Adults take control of this Person In Need of Supervision? They will, eventually.
April 21, 2015, 11:02 am
Josh from Cobble Hill says:

View Gowanus water testing results here:
April 22, 2015, 12:06 pm

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