RIO: The Polluted Water of the 2016 Olympics

rio7RIO’s ” Bay of All Delight’s” will be hosting several aquatic events during this summers Olympics. Today much of the area”s wildlife has been eradicated by untreated sewage and industrial waste. The greatest environmental indicator of the level of pollution is the “tucuxi”:(a fresh water dolphin). In 1995 there were some 800 animals in the Bay, 10 yrs later 400, and presently 35 remain. rio8

Rio promised to clean up the water to a great degree for the Olympics. Like many cities in middle income countries Rio treats only a small percentage of it’s sewage. Two investigations based on independent water quality testing found disease causing viruses and bacteria, and not in small amounts.


In pre-Olympic events held in the Bay athletes who have fallen in say the water stinks, sailors are advised to keep their mouths closed and wash their hands after they touch wet gear. What about triathletes performing in the swimming event?rio3rio9

Much is made of the problem of raw sewage being dumped into the Ocean around Rio, but it is not unusual. Around the world raw sewage finds it’s way into bodies of water. Many cities rely on marine outfalls. Just a few months ago Montreal dumped 2 billion gallons of untreated sewage into the St. Lawrence so they could repair old pipes. For Rio there is a unique problem. Many of the beaches are connected to canals and storm water drains that are home to more raw sewage than is typically seen in more developed countries. Ipanema and Copacabana beaches team with fecal matter after storms. rio2rio4

In a short time sailors will be zooming across the waters of Guanabara Bay in heated Olympic competition…while underneath at a rate of 8,200 liters per sec raw sewage flows. Ingesting 3 teaspoons of this water would result in 99% chance of infection. On top of sewage issues, many of the cities that surround the bay have irregular garbage pick up. Olympic sailors have complained about hitting everything from washing machines to garbage bags. RIO

Suffice to say the IOC and RIO have their work cut out for them in improving the water quality so the athletes can compete without getting sick. Much is going on, but much still has to be done. Which begs the question, what will happen when the world leaves RIO, the cameras put away, back to the bad old ways?

2016 RIO Olympics Face Water Pollution Crisis:


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