A panicked dolphin became trapped earlier today in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, one of the nation’s most polluted waterways. Authorities responded to calls about the dolphin but so far have been unable to help it. Some media outlets are reporting that officials are waiting for the high tide to hopefully bring the dolphin back to sea.

To understand why this story is intriguing, you first have to understand the area where it’s taking place. I live about a block away from here, so I can help. The canal was once a string of tidal wetlands and freshwater streams, but now has 14 combined sewer overflow points. In its heyday, it was used as a transportation hub for cargo, but it’s been more or less abandoned with the decline of the local shipping industry.


The Gowanus Canal is now basically a ditch between two of the nicer neighborhoods in Brooklyn: Park Slope and Carroll Gardens. The people who live in these neighborhoods are mostly middle-aged, well-to-do folks with kids. They rarely get to see nature, let alone dolphins, and they definitely aren’t used to seeing animals die.

So predictably, this has become a pretty big news story. Even though the canal is just as polluted today as it was yesterday, it’s killing a dolphin now, so people care. Hopefully, this fiasco will bring a little more attention to the canal and encourage the city and the EPA to clean it up faster (the canal was made a Superfund site in 2010).

It’s just too bad (and a little strange) that it takes something like a distressed dolphin to get people to pay attention to a massive environmental disaster that’s going on in their own backyards.


Photos by: Aaron Binaco