Stupid is as Stupid does -- Chris Swain swims the Gowanus

Christopher Swain swims in the Gowanus Canal for Earth Day, April 22, 2015. The activist made the journey to bring attention to the Brooklyn Superfund site.

Stupid is as Stupid does -- Chris Swain swims the Gowanus

Boerum Hill
Carroll Gardens
Cobble Hill
Gowanus

Earth Day brings out some of the stupidest ideas, and an an environmental activist took it to a new level by swimming in the disgustingly toxic Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.

Chris Swain wanted to swim the entire length of the canal, but police officials took him to task for his lack of planning of the event.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also advised against Swain’s swim.

Everyone is told never to swim in the Gowanus, ever, and even if you canoe on it, as I have, the first thing you do when you get home is take a nice long shower, scrubbing every inch of your body.

In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the canal “one of the most contaminated water bodies in the nation” when it was made a Superfund site. The contaminants include all manner of scary chemicals, regional EPA administrator Judith Enck said in a 2013 report.

“There’s a whole witches’ brew of contaminants in the bottom of the Gowanus Canal. It’s heavy metals such as lead and mercury, PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and a lot of coal tar,” Enck said in 2013, in announcing a massive cleanup project.

When I photographed divers coming out of the canal in the mid-90s, their suits were coated in tar. It was one of the most disgusting sights I have ever seen.

The media turned out in force for the event, along with hundreds of locals who just couldn't believe a man was dumb enough to go into the water, even with a protective suit.

The concensus was that he would die before he could finish his trek. Well, he made it out. We'll just have to see how he feels in the next few days!

As many know, I have photographed the Gowanus Canal for almost two decades, and I would never swim in it. To learn more of its history, visit our Gownaus neighborhood page on SouthBrooklyn.com!
 

 

 

Christopher Swain swims in the Gowanus Canal for Earth Day, April 22, 2015. The activist made the journey to bring attention to the Brooklyn Superfund site. ©Mark D Phillips
Christopher Swain swims in the Gowanus Canal for Earth Day, April 22, 2015. The activist made the journey to bring attention to the Brooklyn Superfund site. ©Mark D Phillips