BROOKLYN — Clean water advocate Christopher Swain will again swim the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site here on Earth Day.
It is one of America’s most polluted waterways, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It was built in the mid-1800s and used as a major industrial transportation route, lined by manufactured gas plants, paper mills, tanneries and chemical plants.
Swain, who was born in New York City, became the first person in history to swim the entire 1.8-mile length of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in 2015, a spokesperson said in a news release.
At the time, Swain compared it to “swimming through a dirty diaper.”
The EPA says more than a dozen contaminants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls and heavy metals, including mercury, lead and copper, are found at high levels in its sediment.
To protect himself from raw sewage, coal tar residue, oil, gasoline, bacteria, protozoa and viruses, Swain will wear a puncture-resistant search-and-rescue drysuit, earplugs, a silicone cap, neoprene gloves and boots, and swim goggles, the spokesperson said.
His exposed skin will be slathered in a non-petroleum, water-barrier gel and he will periodically rinse his mouth with a 1.5-percent solution of hydrogen peroxide. If he ingests water from the canal, he plans to take activated charcoal tablets.
Swain will swim upstream Sunday morning from the Hamilton Street Bridge near the mouth of the canal to the new waterfront park at 365 Bond Street in Brooklyn, his spokesperson said.
Swain’s Gowanus Canal swim is part of his “Campaign for Swimmable Waterways” in New York City.
While the EPA-led cleanup under the Superfund program promises to remove the 10- to 20-foot-deep layer of toxic sludge at the bottom of the canal, “that’s just a partial cleanup. It won’t leave us with a canal that is safe for swimming every day. … I want us to finish the job,” said Swain in the news release.
He is calling for a comprehensive cleanup that includes a permanent end to all sewage discharges to the canal and access points for swimmers once it is clean enough.
For location updates during his swim, follow @SwimWithSwain. Visit SwimWithSwain.org.