There is still a lot of active industry on the Gowanus Canal. Photo by Mai Armstrong
Yesterday, I went to watch clean water advocate Chris Swain’s earth day swim in the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. Word was he would swim the entire toxic length.
All the major news outlets were present. Photo by Mai Armstrong
Heading for the 3rd Street Bridge, I set myself up in the Whole Foods Market parking lot pocket-park – coffee and restrooms close by! – along with dozens of news media outlets, buzzing helicopters overhead, and a few bewildered local shoppers with their dogs.
Warning signs show the location of Combined Sewer Outfalls in NYC where untreated sewage releases into area waterways when it rains. NYC DEP photo
It had rained the previous day, and I wondered how much raw sewage had been freshly discharged into the waterway.
What’s in that soup? Photo by Mai Armstrong
We waited for a looong time. The reporters started to thin out, and eventually the helicopters left. My companion started to fidget so we abandoned the effort, and decided lunch on the outdoor roof deck at Whole Foods was in order.
There he is! The tiny yellow blob! Photo by Mai Armstrong
At some point, the swimmer came into view, and I snapped a couple of shots of him splashing in the water before he climbed ashore. I was kind of glad not to be too close, I didn’t want any of that water on me!
Chris Swain swims the Gowanus Canal. Photo by Mai Armstrong
I gathered from my fellow gawkers, that the swim had been cut short by the impending weather, and sure enough the skies darkened and the wind picked up as I wound my way home.
Did he accomplish his goal to raise awareness? The media were there… but I got the impression they were there to see a guy swim in poop. What do you think? Noble or reckless? Irresponsible or dedicated? Brave or stupid? Let me know in the comments.
by Mai Armstrong for the Working Harbor Committee