The J-Man Chronicles: Snorkeling for Turds in the 'Beautiful' Bronx River

By Josh Bloom — Aug 02, 2023
A recent photo published on a local community bulletin board shows some maniac snorkeling in the Bronx River, a former toilet of New York Coty. What could he be looking for? Turds? Or worse ... Yankee tickets?

Little surprises me anymore. But this did.

The photo below (left) was recently posted on a site called Nextdoor, which serves as a community bulletin board, resource for services, and general bitching site (almost no topic is off limits). The company that runs it calls it a hyperlocal social networking service (1), but it's much like the Wild West; in addition to house painting, missing cats, and complaints about noisy motorcycles and porch pirates there is some crazy s### on there from time to time. Here's an example that meets even the strictest criteria for "crazy s###. 

Recently, a flabbergasted resident named Carol B. snapped and posted the photo (below, left). It looks innocent enough, perhaps even bordering on idyllic. That is until you read the caption: "Snorkeling in the Bronx River. He came up once choking on water that went up his nose. All I can think about was if there are brain-eating amoeba in that murky water. I hope not!"

(Left) A deranged soul snorkeling in the Bronx River, (Center) a foul 24-mile "fresh" water river that starts at the Kensico Reservoir, in Valhalla, NY, and empties into the equally foul East River (Right) in New York City. Even the most battle-hardened poop emojis like Mr. Squiggly cannot endure (let alone thrive in) the East River.

Photo credits: png image from">Pngtree, Wikipedia

I don't know whether brain-eating amoebas are in that putrid river or not. Perhaps they once were but got eaten by something worse or more likely poisoned. But I do know that the Bronx River has a long and polluted history, even though it begins at one of New York City's reservoirs, where it starts out clean but along its 24-mile length, is mightily abused. When industries lined the river in the late 1800s and early 1900s it was used as a sewer for industrial chemical waste. While this eventually stopped, untreated sewage still poured into the hideous waterway until the 2000s. Sewage is no longer dumped into the river, but the river is still polluted (2) by urban runoff and whatever else people might dump in there. Which could be just about anything...

Cleaning up the Bronx River ca. 1990. Yick. Source: New York City Parks Department


I'm not sure what this now-deceased (probably, anyhow) snorkeler was trying to find because, on a good day, the visibility in the river is something like 12 microns. Yet, that didn't stop more than 100 people from spinning their own theories and making some hilarious remarks on the Nextdoor site.

"I'm guessing that if you're snorkeling in the Bronx River it's way too late to worry about brain damage." Robert P.

June J. mirrored these thoughts: "The Amoebas cannot eat what does not exist!"

Bob B. has the right idea, but needs remedial spelling: "That looks like Jacque Crustoe." Bob, ever hear of Google? It's Jacques Cousteau.

John D., in response to John M., chose the anatomical motif: John M: There's some big snapping turtles in there! John D: "Better watch your wee wee!" Wise advice, indeed!

Juan Carlo B. and Rafael B went philosophical on us: JB: "He is a man of singular drive and purpose. Even the baceteria [sic] cannot distract him!!!" RB: "Ignorance is the weapon of an intellectually unarmed person. Déjalo bruto." (Does anyone know what the hell he's talking about? Or are you also intellectually unarmed.)

Diane B. offers a more optimistic thought: "Wouldn’t it be funny after we all made fun of him if he finds some treasure?"

Uh, Diane, this is rather unlikely. Rumor has it that an envelope full of Yankee tickets was recently found floating in the river, but the chances are that they were thrown there intentionally.

But the boobie first prize goes to Joe V. for this incisive gem: "What's he doing, snorkeling for turds?" thereby winning a place in history as the creative inspiration for the title of a J-Man Chronicle piece (of idiocy). Way to go, Joe!

You win one of the very few ACSH coffee cups ever made, perhaps a dozen and I own 8 of them. I've even filled it up for you. Enjoy!


(1) You won't be able to access this particular locality unless you sign up as someone from Westchester, NY. Don't bother.

(2) To be fair, the Bronx River is in far better shape than it used to be. Efforts by multiple groups have helped clean up the river substantially. Dolphins have been seen in the river for the first time in quite a while. 

A section of the Bronx River now. Photo: New York City Parks Department

But there's no way I'm swimming in there. None.







Josh Bloom

Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Josh Bloom, the Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, comes from the world of drug discovery, where he did research for more than 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

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