In May 2104, we posted “Sailing in Sewage — Olympic Sailors in Guanabara Bay at Rio de Janeiro.” The post was about the challenge of sailing the Olympic trials in Guanabara Bay, a body of water thoroughly befouled with garbage and sewage. Local officials promised that the Bay would be cleaned up in time for the Olympics themselves. Now, sadly, two years later, not enough has changed.
In recent trails in Guanabara Bay, the white hulls of the competing sail boats were turned brown by an oil in the water. There are, however, greater concerns. Independent testing by the Associated Press, earlier in the year, found high levels of viruses and sometimes bacteria from human sewage in the Rio Olympic venues. German sailor Erik Heil was hospitalized in Berlin and underwent surgery to treat inflammation and skin infections after competing in a test event in August.
Even more disturbing, as reported by Scientific American: “Scientists have found dangerous drug-resistant “super bacteria” off beaches in Rio de Janeiro that will host Olympic swimming events and in a lagoon where rowing and canoe athletes will compete when the Games start on Aug. 5.”
“This bacteria colonizes the intestine and it goes along with feces to the hospital sewage,” Renata Picao told CNN. “We believe that hospital sewage goes into municipal sewage and gets to the Guanabara Bay or to other rivers and finally gets to the beach.”
Rio has made gains in water treatment in recent years, but only about half the city’s sewage is treated before it flows into the bay.