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Is The Gowanus Canal Becoming Brooklyn's Best Swimming Hole?

Go ahead, jump in!
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Go ahead, jump in! Scott Lynch/Gothamist

A fun thing I used to do was laugh and laugh at the fantastical renderings of luxury buildings on the Gowanus, in which the city's favorite polluted waterway was transformed into a peaceful oasis of crystal blue water. Well, turns out those developers are having the last laugh because there were ten whole days this summer where it was safe for humans to swim in the Gowanus Canal.

The news of the cleaner canal comes courtesy of the Brooklyn Paper, who reports that the amount of human poop found in the canal has steadily dropped over the last few years. Not like, "dropped so much we should all fish on the banks" but hey, less crap in a canal in any amount is a win. The paper spoke with Gowanus resident Eymund Diegel, who's been taking water samples of the putrid waterway for years.

According to Diegel, the amount of human excrement in the canal (by which I mean literal crap and not the figurative crap like rusty old metal chucked in there) has steadily dropped from 2012 to 2017. Where once there was so much doodoo in the canal that a person could safely swim in for two days in the summer of 2012, this past summer saw the canal safe enough to swim in for a whole ten days. Wow, with results like that, who needs a public pool?

The focus on safety in regards to poop and not the other toxins in the canal is because excrement can cause people harm most easily and immediately, according to Columbia University professor Andy Juhl. The other toxins in the waterway cause harm only after chronic exposure, Juhl maintains.

Diegel credited a huge tunnel that brings hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the New York Harbor into the canal for the extra freshness, an action he metaphorically compared to flushing a large toilet, which is a very appealing image when thinking about the Gowanus! All of that being said, Juhl played the killjoy and warned that before you get your Christopher Swain on, you should actually not get your Christopher Swain on at all because the canal is still a Superfund site that the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to rid of poisons like heavy metal, mercury, PCBs and of course, STDs.

By next summer though, who knows, maybe we'll have 11 whole days in which it's safe for humans to turn the Superfund site into a SuperFUN site.

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