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Endurance Swimmer’s Journey Down the Hudson Nears New York Harbor Finish Line

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September 9, 2023

By Barrett Seaman–

British endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh was on the final stretch of his 315-mile aquatic journey down the Hudson River when he stopped by the marina at the Half Moon Bay in Croton-on-Hudson Saturday morning to join a press conference with Republican Congressman Mike Lawyer and State Senator Pete Harckham, a Democrat, to extol the virtues of a cleaner river.

For Lawler, Pugh’s passage through his 17th District that surrounds most of the stretch he had just completed, presented a chance to tout his support for recent pro-environment pieces of legislation—a credit he will need when he comes up for re-election in 2024 in a district that is heavily Democratic and pro-environment—especially in the rivertowns.

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We’re pleased to have you here and to highlight not just your swim but the purpose of it—and to talk about the importance of our environment and the Hudson River behind us,” said Lawler in introducing Pugh. “I’m proud to be a co-sponsor ion the New Jersey/New York Watershed Protection Act and to really focus on protecting the Hudson River and the estuaries and the watershed that feeds into it, as well as to support the efforts to prevent the discharge of nuclear wastewater into the Hudson.”

Lawler also recounted how his soon-to-be 90-year-old grandfather was an environmental engineer “and one of the foremost experts on cleaning up the Hudson River and getting the PCBs out.”

Both Lawler and Senator Harckham stressed the bipartisan nature of the recent “Save the Hudson” legislation, signed into law by Governor Hochul last month. The bill blocked Holtec Corp. the company managing the decommissioning of the nearby Indian Point nuclear power plant, from dumping a million gallons of nuclear wastewater into the river. Harckham cited the “overwhelming public support” for the bill. “No level of pollution is acceptable,” he declared. “Our water bodies—rivers, bays or oceans—are critical to our economic sustainability.”

Pugh thanked the politicians for their efforts, confessing that as he swam by Indian Point the night before, “I took myself back a month when I thought that this swim would end just before Indian Point, because the governor had not [yet] made a decision” on banning the discharge.

Pugh, 53, of British and South African descent, has been called “the Sir Edmund Hillary of swimming” (after the conqueror of Mt. Everest). He is the first person to complete a long-distance swim in every one of the world’s oceans. He began his journey on August 13th at the river’s source in the Adirondacks and is expected to reach New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty on Wednesday, September 13th.

Pugh effused over the varied wildlife of the Hudson—the beavers, bears, vultures, osprey and the giant sturgeon, now also swimming downriver back to the ocean. “I feel that I have made a lifetime friend,” he said. He recounted how, a few days earlier, he had swum past Marist College in Poughkeepsie, where he was joined in the water first by the college’s swim team, then the water polo team, then the rowers and the college’s president, Kevin Weinman, and his wife—and a nine-year-old girl who swam five kilometers alongside him.  “I dream of the day,” concluded Pugh, “when a vice chancellor of a British University can dive into the Thames, or into the Isis or into the Firth of Forth…and swim with her or his students.”

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