PIX 11 News: Activist Swims in Contaminated Newtown Creek

New York Daily News: Environmentalist Braves Feces, Condoms and More

CBS New York: Clean Water Activist Takes Three Hour Swim in Newtown Creek

News 12 Brooklyn: Environmental Activist Swims Newtown Creek

DNAInfo.com: Scents of Human Waste and Cinnamon Toast Assault Newtown Creek Swimmer

The Brooklyn Eagle: Activist Christopher Swain swims in "toilet bowl of bacteria"

Fox 5 NY: Activist Swims Newtown Creek

The Brooklyn Paper: Daredevil swimmer: Newtown Creek filthier than the Gowanus Canal

Gothamist: Man Braves Used Condoms and Floating Turds in Newtown Creek

The Brooklyn Paper: Newtown Creek vs. Gowanus Canal

AM New York: Christopher Swain Swims Newtown Creek

The Brooklyn Paper: Toxic Avenger Will Swim Newtown Creek Tomorrow

Brokelyn.com: Up Shit's Creek




Clean Water Advocate Continues Campaign for Swimmable Waterways, Despite Health Risks


On Wednesday morning, December 23rd, Clean Water Advocate Christopher Swain will swim the entire length of the Newtown Creek Superfund Site--home to one of the largest oil spills in America--becoming the first person in history to do so.

Swain proposes a revised goal for the Newtown Creek Superfund Site: a combined city, state and federal cleanup effort that continues until Newtown Creek is safe for swimming every day (as mandated by the federal Clean Water Act of 1972).

Swain’s 3.5 mile (6 km) swim will take him from the headwaters of Newtown Creek (East Branch), down to its confluence with the East River. Accompanied by a safety crew, Swain will use his swim to measure, map, and document the state of Newtown Creek. Efforts will include: water sampling, GPS tracking, photography, time-lapse video, and monitoring of Swain’s heart rate and other physiological parameters.  Data collected will be shared with science teachers throughout the United States.

The Newtown Creek swim is the second leg of Swain’s “Campaign for Swimmable Waterways,” an effort designed to energize cleanups of some of New York City’s most polluted bodies of water, such as the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, and the Bronx River.

For more information, please visit: www.SwimWithSwain.org, follow Swain on Twitter @SwimWithSwain, or search“SwimWithSwain” on Facebook and Instagram.

WHEN:  WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2015, 10:30 A.M. – 10:45 A.M. – Immediately after concluding his swim, Swain will emerge from the water and hold a press conference at 5501 Second Street in Long Island City, NY (where 2nd Street dead ends at the edge of Newtown Creek, about 50 yards past the truck entrance to City Harvest).


The mouth of Newtown Creek offers lots of meaty visuals, including floating trash, rainbow sheens of oil and gasoline (see below), sewage scum, and the lower Manhattan skyline.

Crews who set up along the bank of Newtown Creek at 5501 Second Street in Long Island City, can capture Swain swimming (accompanied by safety kayaker and educator, Nicole Butterfield) down the final section of Newtown Creek wearing his yellow, high-visibility, puncture-resistant drysuit that protects his body from the oil slicks, trash, and sewage-fouled waters (visualize a swimmer wearing a combination of Hi-Visibility, Hazardous Materials, and Search and Rescue gear). Swain will emerge from the water, make a brief statement, and answer questions.


·       Christopher Swain was born in New York City. He is 47 years old. He has two daughters, ages 12 and 15.

·       Since 1996, Swain has made presentations about clean water to over 80,000 North American students.

·       During the summer of 2004, Swain swam the entire 315-mile length of the Hudson River, for clean water.

·       In October 2015, to kick off his Campaign For Swimmable Waterways in NYC, Swain swam the entire length of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal Superfund Site.

·       In order to keep Newtown Creek’s polluted waters from entering his mouth, nose, and ears, Swain will be swimming a modified, head-up breaststroke inspired by his paternal grandmother (who used the stroke as a way of keeping her hairdo from getting wet).

·       Newtown Creek is a tidal arm of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary that forms the northwestern-most border between the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

·       During World War II, Newtown Creek was one of the busiest ports in the nation.

·       The City of New York began dumping raw sewage into Newtown Creek in 1856. 

·       Today, much of the sewage generated in lower Manhattan is piped to the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.  During rainstorms and other stormwater events, the plant is often unable to keep up, and releases large amounts of raw sewage into the waters of Newtown Creek.

·       According to a 2014 Public Health Assessment of Newtown Creek prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Water pollution caused by fecal contamination is a serious public health concern due to the risk of contracting diseases when swimming, through swallowing or coming in contact with disease causing agents such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa. This may include gastrointestinal illness caused by pathogens such as E.coli, Shigella spp., Hepatitis A, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium.”

·       Newtown Creek is the home to the largest continuous oil spill in the United States. To date, an estimated 17 to 30 million gallons of oil have leaked into Newtown Creek and surrounding lands.

·       According to United States Environmental Protection Agency: “In the mid-1800s…more than 50 refineries were located along its banks, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards…Today, as a result of its industrial history, including countless spills, Newtown Creek is one of the nation’s most polluted waterways.” 

Rainbow Sheen From Spilled Oil on Surface of Newtown Creek, December 2015.

Rainbow Sheen From Spilled Oil on Surface of Newtown Creek, December 2015.