The Gowanus Canal was established by the Dutch in the late 1800s and was named after a native chief, Gowanes. It was used transport goods straight into the heart of Brooklyn and was the easiest form of transportation. A tunnel was constructed connecting the head of the Canal at Butler Street straight east to the Buttermilk Channel. Soon after the canal was created the population in Brooklyn increased and caused the canal to become extremely polluted, dumping in garbage and other waste into the water way. As an effort to cleanse the canal, a pump was built in 1911. it then broke in 1961 and wasn't fixed until 1999. It will be fully overhauled by the DEP in the next two years.
The canal today has an oily appearance from decades of industrial dumping and runoff, also a smell of rotten eggs from the sewage. The canal smells worse after rain storms because the New York drain system isn't able to hold more than an inch extra of water, so all the extra water and raw sewage flows into the Gowanus. Even with all the pollution, the canal is teeming with life. It contains jellyfish, crabs, fish, etc.