Swain's goal is to bring attention to one of the most polluted waterways in America and to call for an accelerated, comprehensive cleanup, resulting in a "Gowanus Canal that is safe for swimming every day."
Before todays swim, the US Environmental Protection Agency had cautioned Swain against getting into the Gowanus, stating: "
"The Unites States Environmental Protection Agency—leader of the cleanup of the sludge at the bottom of the Canal—recognized Swain’s legal right to swim in the Canal, but has advised Swain against swimming in it at all. In a letter delivered to Swain on Wednesday, the Agency wrote: “EPA strongly advises against swimming in the Gowanus Canal. Swimming in the waters of the Gowanus Canal poses a risk from exposure to site related hazardous chemicals as well as pathogens associated with sewage discharge.”
That obviously did not deter Swain. Shortly after 11 Am, the activist, dressed in a protective yellow suit and wearing a cap with the word "hope" handwritten on it, climbed down from the Union Street bridge and got into a canoe. Amidst applause and shouts of "Go, Swain" and "Good luck, Christopher", he and his team made their way to the head of the canal at Butler Street.
Once there, Swain climbed out of the canoe and entered the greenish, smelly waters.
Within minutes, he had made his way through oil sheen and raw sewage back to the Union Street Bridge, waving to the crowd and stopping just long enough to say: "Sometimes, someone has to put himself on the line for something to change."
He then turned around and continued towards the Carroll Street Bridge and hopefully towards his goal.
Not everyone seemed impressed. A young man shook his head in disbelief and said: "Guy swims in dirty water. So what! For this I left work?"
****Update**Swain completed the entire 1.8 mile swim in the Gowanus Canal at 12:37:44 pm. (The official start time was 11:25:50 am). Eymund Diegel, who accompanied Swain to the finish line in his canoe , reports that the activist is doing quite well after this second time in the polluted canal.
Diegel writes: ""Chris is actually in great shape. Swimming is apparently quite healthy for you. He just had ice cream from Ample Hills - the flavor "It Came from Gowanus" renamed to "He Came from Gowanus" for today."
The photos below were taken by Diegel as Swain was completing his goal.
(photo credit: Eymund Diegel)