Christopher Swain braved the highly toxic Brooklyn body of water to raise awareness about its pollution

By Drew Mackie
Updated April 23, 2015 12:35 AM

It’s one of the nation’s most polluted bodies of water, but environmental activist Christopher Swain attempted to swim across all 1.8 miles of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal on Wednesday in an Earth Day effort to draw attention to just how dirty the water is.

Swain, 47, donned a GoPro camera to record the swim as well as protective gear to fend off the harmful substances in the water. In the end, the Gowanus Canal proved hostile, and Swain called off the swim two-thirds of the way through because he feared approaching storms could endanger his crew of assistants.

And yes, he got some of the water in his mouth. “It tasted like mud, poop, ground-up grass, detergent, gasoline, and you know if you drink one of those green drinks and you get that gritty, sandy feeling in your mouth? Like that,” he told the New York Daily News.

Speaking to New York’s WABC News, Swain said he wasn’t worried about the danger posed by the swim. “Could I get diarrhea? Yeah. Could I get dysentery? Yeah,” he told the station. “The hope is no, I won’t. Dysentery would be bad. Dysentery would be like you went to a really rough place in the developing world and got really sick.”

In 2007, a group of scientists found gonorrhea in the water. In March 2010, the canal was named a Superfund site, which means the Federal government will spend a half-billion dollars over the next decade in an attempt to clean it up.