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Clean Water Activist Takes Plunge In Toxic Gowanus Canal To Make A Point

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- An activist sent a strong message on Earth Day.

He took a plunge into the notoriously toxic Gowanus Canal on Sunday. It wasn't his first swim in the waterway and it likely won't be his last, CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis reported.

Christopher Swain is taking a stand … well, a swim … to prove a point about pollution.

"It feels like it could be a beautiful place to swim, but it smells like poop and oil and gasoline," he said from the water.

Christopher Swain
Activist Christopher Swain swam the polluted Gowanus Canal on April 22, 2018. (Photo: CBS2)

Sunday's trip was Swain's third plunge into the 1.8-mile long Gowanus, which is widely known for its contamination.

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Even though many likely wouldn't dare to swim in the canal, the Environmental Protection Agency strongly advises against it.

"They've cultured all sorts of bacteria and viruses in this canal," Swain said. "They've even found live gonorrhea after sewage events in this canal."

While streaming his entire experience on Facebook, Swain explained why he took the health risk.

"I'm doing it because I love this canal and I want it to be clean," Swain said.

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Swain tried to keep himself clean in the process by wearing protective gear.

"I'm wearing a puncture-resistant search and rescue dry suit. What that means is no water is touching my skin under the suit," he said.

And when a little water gets in his mouth ... he gargles hydrogen peroxide.

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The first time Swain made this swim was Earth Day three years ago and he said he has since seen some change.

"There's a federal cleanup underway that's gonna take out the muck of the bottom, but that's not gonna help necessarily with the plumbing problems that put sewage and contaminated runoff into the canal," he said.

His mission: to speed up the clean up.

"I'm thinking, hey, we built a space shuttle; we built an iPhone in this country. We can figure out how to not contaminate this canal, to make it safe for swimming," Swain said.

And he's not going to stop swimming here, until its safe for everyone to swim and boat here, Deangelis reported.

Swain said he's swam in the Hudson River, the Long Island Sound and the East River, all in his push for clean water.

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