“I think it’s a shame,” Paes told SporTV on Monday. “I think it’s a lost opportunity.”
The Olympics were supposed to act as the impetus to clean the waterway, with the installation of a sewage system that would treat 80 percent of raw sewage produced in the city going forward. Currently, the treatment rate is 49 percent, according to SporTV.
Besides raw sewage, household trash also gets washed into the bay. While Paes insisted to SporTV that the sailing events will take place in the cleanest part of the waters, pollution could still prove a problem in those “clean” areas, as well, especially if it rains. Per the Associated Press reports (via Fox News):
[A] helicopter ride Monday organized by biologist and environmental activist Mario Moscatelli illustrated the extent of the problem, revealing household trash floating throughout the entire bay, including within lanes for the Olympic sailing competition.Heavy rains in Rio over the weekend exacerbated the problem. Each time the tropical city sees heavy rains, the amount of raw sewage emanating from the city’s more than 1,000 “favela” slums spikes and huge amounts of trash are flushed off the streets and into area waterways.
Besides being a nuisance (if a sailing vessel collides with floating garbage), many have sounded alarms for dangers invisible to the human eye, including a “superbacteria” known as the KPC enzyme, which has a mortality rate of 50 percent for those with suppressed immune systems.
The Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, a respected Brazilian research institute, found the enzyme in the bay last year and released the results while teams, including Team USA, were racing in the waters as part of the Olympic test event.
A spokesman for Team USA expressed his disappointment in Rio’s clean-up efforts at that time, but said in December that neither he nor the team expects a change of venue.
Mayor Paes also confirmed the venue is set regardless of the sanitation issues at this point. The Olympics are 500 days away.
“I do not see this as a problem for the Olympics, as it was not for the test event last year,” he told SporTV.
He added: “It is a pity that the Olympics in this case won’t be the reason to solve the pollution issue once and for all.”
Meanwhile, the official Twitter account for the Olympics had a completely different take on all of the above facts.