Man swimming length of river to make point

Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2003

KELLER, Wash. (AP) -- A swimmer neared the halfway point in a 1,250-mile journey down the Columbia River -- a trip designed to raise awareness of its pollution levels and to encourage a cleanup.

Christopher Swain of Portland, Ore., began his swim at Columbia Lake, near the British Columbia-Alberta border, last June. He said he was about on schedule for the journey that will eventually spill him out into the Pacific Ocean.

The 24-year-old has been swimming about 10 days a month during the winter, spending six to eight hours in the water each day. A support team, including an inflatable boat, accompanies him.

Swain faces considerable hazards, including rapids and tricky currents.

Nearer the mouth of the river there are container ships to dodge, as well as sharks where the river meets the sea. And there are personal watercraft, barges and pleasure boats.

''I'm going to be swimming through water that runs with everything from arsenic to zinc,'' Swain said at the start of his journey. ''It's just a matter of picking your poison. Heavy metals we've got, radioactive isotopes, human sewage we've got.''

He returns to a schedule of 20 days a month by March and expects to finish in June.

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