Clean Water Activist Swims Nasty Gowanus Canal

When most New Yorkers look at the Gowanus Canal they see a putrid waterway notorious for pollution and a dumping ground for evidence and the occasional dead body.

They do not see, however, a lovely place to have a swim. But then again, most people are not like Christopher Swain, who recently swam in the heavily polluted canal as a way to raise awareness about its disgusting nature. 

“They say I’m crazy,” Swain told the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper. “But I think it’s crazy that we let the Gowanus get to this point. We’re the greatest city in the world and we can’t even cleanup a canal.”

On his Instagram, Swain addresses the Canal like a lady. “Hey Gowanus Canal, everybody tells me you’re damaged goods, but I don’t care. Maybe I’m into that.” 

Swain has swam through polluted waterways before as a publicity stunt, braving bacteria, viruses, sewage and even nuclear waste. The Gowanus Canal is arguably the most polluted waterway on the planet. In January 2013, a dolphin that swam up the canal died from likely exposure to toxins. 

The most disgusting thing Swain encountered on his most recent swim was a patch of green foam. His swim was documented by a team of assistants, which conducted water sampling and took photos and video of the whole event.  

“It’s our federal right to clean water,” he told the paper. “Sometimes you need to put yourself on the line if anything is going to change. Hopefully I can be a part of that.”