the gowanus canal
The Gowanus Canal
Sad, sad news: The dolphin who spent today trapped in the highly toxic waters of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn has died, officials say. Apparently injured and possibly tangled up in something, the approximately 7-foot-long, 200-pound creature struggled for hours as local residents, biologists and emergency responders watched helplessly. Because -- and this is the really sad part -- the Gowanus Canal is so polluted it's literally poisonous. Said Robert DiGiovanni, senior biologist at the Riverhead Foundation, “Unfortunately, all we can do is watch and wait for the tide to rise, so the animal can get out on its own. It’s not safe for us to get people in the water.”

What a horrible way for this majestic animal to die. And what a horrible truth that this waterway ever got so polluted in the first place.

I used to live about a 10 minute walk from the spot where the dolphin was trapped, and it was something we used to joke about, in a morbid sort of way: Any fish living in that slime would probably have 3 heads.

For decades the canal was bordered by chemical and gas plants, factories emitting all manner of toxins. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency said it would take about $500 million to clean up the "Superfund" site.

The saddest commentary came from a "bystander" named Cathy Ryan, who said, "He's in bad shape ... you can tell. A dolphin is grey, but he's black right now. He was starting to swim toward the middle of the canal. But it doesn't look good."

And now he's gone.

What's the most polluted waterway in your area? Does it worry you?


Image via Steven Cloud/Flickr