Man swims 133 miles through sewage across Long Island Sound

Stacey Sager Image
Friday, June 16, 2017
Man swims 133 miles through sewage across Long Island Sound
Stacey Sager spoke with the man who is swimming across the Long Island sound to advocate for clean water.

BAY RIDGE, Brooklyn (WABC) -- An environmentalist who is known for taking a dip in some unsavory waters is talking about his latest stunt that was months in the making.

Christopher Swain set out from the eastern tip of Long Island back in September, and 133 miles through some of the nastiest water later, he finished his journey at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

"So when you swim through a slick of sewage as a swimmer, it really brings the problem home," he said.

The 49-year-old Swain has never been on a swim team and he's no scientist, but he is a dreamer willing to endure less-than-savory conditions to make a point.

"I've had lymph nodes swell up under my almost golf-ball size, because of the amount of sewage I've been through," he said. "So you have to a be careful. You can get really, really sick."

His dream is that one day, all of New York's waterways will be swim-able without these problems.

"Some people say that's a crazy dream," he said. "I'd say, that's what would make our city great."

Most people don't realize federal law dictates that as long as water is navigable, you should be able to swim in it here in the United States. It's just that most people wouldn't want to.

Swain has been at it a while, suiting up to traverse the Gowanus Canal back in 2015. The canal is now undergoing a cleanup. But his latest venture, completed Thursday, was a 133-mile journey that began in Montauk and went through the Long Island Sound to New York City.

It wasn't easy. Swain had to deal with jelly fish stings and sharks, there was all the trash and the huge boats around him, and there were injuries, boat problems and bad weather. But he's a swimmer on a mission to stop the sewage.

"When it rains really hard in New York City, we pump tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage an hour into our waterways," he said.

Swain would love to see a new system of catch basins in the city, but until then, look for him in the area's dirtiest waters. Because he's certainly won't throw in his towel just yet.