Environmentalist Chris Swain has completed an eight-week, 315-mile swim down the Hudson River to highlight the need for cleaner water.
During Swain's final quarter-mile yesterday, photographers in a nearby boat snapped away at what he wanted them to see: floating chunks of wood, plastic bags and the brown foam indicative of raw sewage.
After completing his swim, the 36-year-old Vermont acupuncturist and triathlete stood on a dock and explained why he did it: "We're looking for a pristine river, drinkable all the way to Troy and swimmable all the way to the Atlantic, every day of the year."
Reed Super, a lawyer for the ecological watchdog group Riverkeeper, said the Hudson is "10 to 100 times cleaner" than it was when the federal Clean Water Act went into effect three decades ago. But he warned that it still contains pesticides and PCBs. And in the New York City area, it is polluted by sewage runoff especially after rain.
Swain said he developed a rash and was forced to gargle constantly with hydrogen peroxide because of pollutants he ingested while swimming six hours a day, averaging 2 mph.
A Manhattan native, Swain said he hopes enough people get involved in efforts to clean up the Hudson that his two daughters could "jump in here some day without fear."
In 2003, Swain completed a similar marathon in the Columbia River, during which he swam a total of 1,243 miles.