Swimming a waterway so toxic that it’s been declared a Superfund site isn’t on most people’s bucket lists. But for Christopher Swain — who has ventured into some of the most dangerous and dirty waters in America — it’s not about accomplishing a thrilling feat of endurance. It’s bigger. He’s made history by being the first person to swim routes along the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek. He swims in sludge and refuse. He swims in much filled backwaters.
Why? Because no one else would ever dare to do it. And if there are waterways in this country too filthy to dip a toe in, we need to talk about why they exist. Swain doesn’t swim through oil, and toxic waste, and every kind of garbage imaginable because he wants to. He does it to bring light to the desperate state our country’s lakes, rivers, and oceans are in.
“If people knew how bad it is,” he says. “I think they’d say, ‘that’s enough.’”