Christopher Swain after his New York swim
Christopher Swain, a clean-water activist, speaks to the media after swimming in the Gowanus Canal Reuters

Environmental activist Christopher Swain gave up an Earth Day swim across a polluted New York City canal, citing weather concerns. Swain, who advocates for clean water, ended his swim through Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal before making it halfway through, Reuters reported.

The 47-year-old environmentalist swam for less than an hour before succumbing to strong winds and menacing dark clouds. "It's probably the safest move at this point," Swain told spectators. He estimated he swam about two-thirds of a mile, Reuters reported.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Gowanus Canal is one of the country's most extensively contaminated water bodies due to "years of discharges, storm water run-off, sewer outflows and industrial pollutants". The polluted canal was added to the EPA's Superfund National Priorities List in March 2010, thus allowing the agency to investigate the canal's contamination.

EPA spokesman Elias Rodrigues described the canal as "chemical cornucopia".

Reuters reported that Swain was not concerned about health risks because he wore a protective dry suit, gloves, boots, flippers and a swim cap during his swim. He described his dip in the Gowanus as being "just like swimming into a dirty diaper".

On Twitter, Swain continued to call for a clean up of the polluted canal. "The Gowanus Canal won't be clean until it is safe for #swimming every day," Swain tweeted.