Investigation Finds “Dangerously High” Water Contamination at 2016 Olympic Sites

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An Associated Press investigation has uncovered significant health concerns regarding the Rio water that nearly 1,400 Olympians will be boating or swimming in next year at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. According to the water analysis, the bodies of water the Olympic events will be held in were found to have dangerously highly levels of viruses and bacteria from human sewage.

Four rounds of testing were performed at the three Olympic water venues, along with a tourist beach not being used in the events. The water was checked for numerous viruses along with fecal coliform bacteria. In total, 37 samples were examined and not one was found to be uncontaminated. In the most extreme case, viral levels were discovered that were up to 1.7 million times the amount that would trigger the closure of a water body in southern California (where the tests were verified.)

Rio’s sewage is fed through open-air streams into various bodies of water throughout the city. The toxicity has periodically left one of the Olympic lakes, Rodrigo de Freitas, littered with dead fish. Brazilian and IOC officials have assured people that the water will be safe for the Olympics; however, the water quality tests they use only check for bacteria—not viruses. Even if the water is able to be cleaned in time for the 2016 games, it will not come in time to help the Olympic hopefuls engaging in the August 2 qualifier triathlon or those engaging in the World Rowing Junior Championships on August 5. Qualifier events for sailing and marathon swimming will be happening later on in August as well.

Several teams are already in Rio to train for the Olympics and many training days have been lost due to vomiting, diarrhea, and fever caused by the infected water.

Many of Rio’s adolescent citizens have built up antibodies to the viruses that fill the city’s endemic sewage issues, but foreign athletes and tourists will lack this protection.

According to the Associated Press, they will continue their water testing investigation over the coming months leading up to the 2016 Olympics.

Source for Today’s Article:
Brooks, B., et al., “AP Investigation: Olympic Teams to Swim, Boat in Rio’s Filth,” Associated Press web site, July 30, 2015; http://bigstory.ap.org/article/d92f6af5121f49d982601a657d745e95/ap-investigation-rios-olympic-water-rife-sewage-virus.

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