by Jeni Bone
State Secretary of Rio de Janeiro, Leonardo Espindola has told the parliament and media that Rio has achieved 50% treatment of sewage to its waterways, two years out from the start of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The ecoboat of Guanabara Limpa project collects debris in Guanabara Bay during a training sesion of Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta.
Following the Olympic test event, Aquece Rio, which ran 2 to 8 August in Guanabara Bay and involved 320 athletes from 34 countries and 23 Olympic medallists competing in 10 Olympic classes, reports and feedback from athletes say the host city is making progress in the massive task of reducing pollution and untreated sewage flow to venues of the 2016 Olympic Games.
According to the Rio Organizing Committee, tests show that water quality is now acceptable, which is confirmed by State Secretary of Rio de Janeiro, Leonardo Espindola, who adds that he is confident the city will achieve targets of 80% in two years.
The General Manager of Sustainability, Accessibility and Legacy of Rio 2016 Tanya Braga, and oceanographer David Zee assured the parliament that the work was on track, through the concerted effort of Eco-barriers, Eco-boats, Rio Handling Units (RTUs) waste bins and the new Waste Treatment Centre. There are now 12 Eco-barriers in use, preventing rubbish from entering the Bay, and another seven will be implemented in 2015.
Espindola described the water in Rio’s magnificent Bay as 'not as bad as people claim, but not as good as others think'. In fact, the return of seahorses has been taken as a sign of improvement in the quality of the water. 'It shows that we are on track,' he said.
As for water outfall, he stated 'Our aim is not to treat 80% of the Bay but to treat 80% of the sewage. We have reached approximately 50% primary and secondary treatment. We will still improve on this. Having 100% is a goal to be pursued by the next generations.'
As Tanya Braga explained: 'Our major concern from day to day is the conditions for sporting events held on the Bay. We need to understand that the Bay is a great venue and the water quality is not equal across the Bay. Comparing the water near the airport and further out near Niterói, it is very different. The Bay has some natural processes that help.
'In Area 1, the water circulates, and changes daily. If we look at the five regions in the northwest of the Bay, the changes are slow. Near the landfill in Fundão, the water may take 40 days to be renewed. This creates conditions for pollution to be greater. Our concern for the well-being of athletes is a top priority. We follow the data of the water, and they show us that where we have scheduled competition, the data is consistent over the past three years. In the competition area, the quality is good.'
The oceanographer David Zee said he was most perturbed about the rubbish and chemical pollution in the area near the Marina da Glória, where boats will start competition.
Cedae (State Company for Water and Sewage) in Rio is working on upgrading the sewer at Marina da Glória, aiming for completion by the end of 2015.
'We are currently undertaking bacteriological treatments to minimize pollution at Marina da Glória,' the organisation stated.
Not up for consideration, even in the event that water quality deteriorates between now and the Games, is relocating sailing events to nearby coastal and resort cities such as Buzios, which had been suggested by Brazilian sailors.
Espindola said: 'We rule out completely the possibility of holding events elsewhere. We want to keep the sailing and water-based events in a radius of 30km to ensure there’s a sense of the spirit of an Olympic city. And we cannot give up on fixing the water quality in the Bay. If today we have acceptable conditions, in two years we will have even better conditions!'
More at www.rio2016.com/en