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Pollution in Rio is a major issue and it could get bigger

by Glenn McCarthy on 31 Mar 2015
Olympic Ring - U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Congressional Caucus US Sailing http://www.ussailing.org
Pollution in Rio is a major issue and it could get bigger as this open letter to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Congressional Caucus on national health of Olympic sailors suggests.

An open letter to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Congressional Caucus on national health of Olympic sailors by Glenn T. McCarthy dated March 30, 2015.

Dear Senators or Representatives:


On November 20, 2013 was the first report on the 7,000,000 Brazilians untreated sewage being dumped into Guanabara Bay, as well as untreated industrial wastes, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (under the Christ the Redeemer mountaintop statue) where the Sailing portion of the Olympic / Paralympic Games of 2016 are planned to be held.

What this means is, United States athletes have been, currently are, and will be competing in this open sewer. It seems each month a new report comes out with horrible implications for the health of our citizen athletes, who are capable of bringing diseases back to U.S. soil.

The most recent released December 16, 2014 by the Rio's renowned Oswaldo Cruz Institute, which says that the KPC enzyme which can cause urinary, gastrointestinal and pulmonary infections, normally found in hospital waste is a 'super bacteria' only treated by antibiotics reserved for the rarest cases, requiring hospitalization for cure. This testing was done right by the harbor where the athletes launch and recover their boats daily.

The first opportunity to discuss the need to move sailing out of Guanabara Bay in an open forum was at the United States Sailing Association (aka US Sailing, the National Governing Body for Sailing) National Conference on October 24, 2014 in Milwaukee, WI. There have been no other meetings available to the public to address this until then.

In preparation for this meeting, it was my goal to ask US Sailing to weigh the evidence of the polluted waters and make a recommendation to the United States Olympic Committee, International Sailing Federation, International Olympic Committee and the Rio Organizing Committee that the location of sailing needs to be moved to a site that has much cleaner water. There are other sites in Brazil 2 to 4 hours away from Rio that have held major sailing events successfully in open ocean waters away from a major city where expectations of water quality would be better.

On 9/26/2014, I received this email from Benjamin Richardson in response:

Glenn,


I am the chair of the Olympic Sailing Committee and on behalf of the Olympic sailing program which has some responsibility for the safety of American athletes, we do not support moving the Olympic sailing venue from Rio. We have tested the water in collaboration with our medical team and the USOC, taken the indicated precautions through inoculation and prophylactic drugs, and our athletes have and continue to spend significant amounts of time training in Rio without incident. Pursuing a change of venue at this point would be a major distraction to the athletes’ preparations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We would be happy to share the findings of our water tests with the SMC in Milwaukee.

Best regards,
Ben



When I questioned why the U.S. Olympic Sailing Committee was not meeting in Milwaukee, Benjamin Richardson replied on 9/29/2014 with:

Glenn,


The OSC is in contact once a month and meets in person once a year at another event. Our discussions are all confidential so convening at the AGM doesn’t make much sense as a closed door meeting doesn’t benefit other attendees. Josh Adams, Managing Director of Olympic Sailing, and I will be in attendance.

Ben

At the US Sailing Sports Medicine Committee meeting from 9:30 - 11:00 AM, October 24, 2014 in Milwaukee, WI, Benjamin Richardson, Chairman of the US Olympic Sailing Committee sat quietly, while Josh Adams, Managing Director of U.S. Olympic Sailing spoke.

Josh Adams stated that:

The media has overblown the situation.

The United States Olympic Sailing Committee has been aware of the polluted waters since Rio was awarded the games in 2009.

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) took water samples from three parts of Guanabara Bay, a Miami lab provided the test results, results were given to USOC doctors including immunologists who said that the water is safe for sailors to compete in. The advice was sent to the athletes and were sworn to secrecy.

They will not provide the test results as the USOC required the US Sailing Olympic Sailing Committee to keep these secret.
The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) is doing their own testing, it is unknown if they will share their results.

The United States Olympic Sailing Committee does not want the venue changed due to the amount of days athletes have been training there, the base camp US Sailing has established, the wind and current studies have been ongoing for years, and the coaches have been studying and advising on the local conditions.

The email of 9/26/14 from Benjamin Richardson saying the water quality test results would be shared did not come true. Conversely, the report is to be kept secret from the public.

Un-swayed, I contacted the United States Olympic Committee, a Federally Chartered Corporation, requesting a copy of the water quality test from Guanabara Bay, Brazil. The USOC response was (via Christy Cahill, USOC Associate Director Communications 10/30/2014 email):

“Ensuring the safety of our athletes is our highest priority and Rio is no different in that regard. Our sailing team members competed safely during the test event in August, enjoyed the spectacular backdrop that is the city of Rio and we look forward to watching them compete at the Games in 2016.”

'That is attributable to Patrick Sandusky, USOC Chief Communications & Public Affairs Officer.'

Reports have suggested that the following diseases may be in this water:

Hepatitis A & B
Dysentery
E-coli
Cholera
Bacteria
Parasites
Viruses
Leptospirosis
and other diseases.

The U.S. is sending its citizens into harm’s way. Only a secret group knows what level of the harm it is. The U.S. should know what harm exists, whether it is safe for our citizens, and whether donors to the Olympic / Paralympic Movement are doing so without having to worry that the athlete(s) they support won't end up injured, permanently ill, or die.

Medical professionals tell me that the type of agents in the water in Guanabara Bay can enter a human body through any orifice, an open wound and through breathing sea mist into the lungs.

Additional Background Overview:

Guanabara Bay is 17 by 19 miles, and has 55 rivers feeding into it, most of which have been declared dead by scientists from the heavy pollution.

Today the daily untreated sewage water of 7,000,000 people is dumped into Guanabara Bay.

Rio Olympic Committee originally promised in their bid package to the International Olympic Committee to have 80% of sewage treated by the opening ceremony in 2016 (leaving 1,400,000 people's sewage dumped daily).

Most recently, the Rio Organizing Committee said they would not reach the 80% goal, and now expect to be a little over 50% cleaned (leaving about 4,000,000 people’s daily raw sewage dumped into Guanabara Bay.

People who have sailed in Guanabara Bay have reported sailing past dead cats, dogs, cows and human bodies through the years.

While the fetid water is the concern for health, for the athletes fairness, the water is covered with trash with everything from couches, TVs, chairs, desks, garbage, etc. which can slow a boat down, cause it to capsize (sending the athletes swimming in the water or stop them in a crash if an object is submerged providing an unfair playing field. Some efforts have been made to rectify this, but for now those efforts have been shut down.

My questions to you, Senators and Representatives:

Since when is the United States Olympic Committee the authority in this country on disease?

Is their highly secretive report complete - does it consider all of the potential harmful biological materials that might be in the water from 7,000,000 humans and industrial waste?

Why is it that the U.S. Sailing Olympic Sailing Committee operates in secrecy?

How come there is no opportunity for citizens to bring their concerns forward about putting our Americans into such septic water?

Why am I forced to come to the Congressional Olympic and Paralympic Caucus in order to get answers that should be provided directly from US Sailing and the USOC?

Should the US Sailing Olympic Sailing Committee be subject to the Open Meetings Act?

Should the US Sailing Olympic Sailing Committee be subject to the Freedom of Information Act?

Should the United States Olympic Committee be subject to the Open Meetings Act?

Should the United States Olympic Committee be subject to the Freedom of Information Act?

Should athletes be quarantined before re-entering the U.S. to assure they are not introducing a new illness to this country?
Should the Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus order water testing performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA, who is our nation's experts on disease?

Note: Other Olympic / Paralympic Sports compete in other bodies of water surrounding Rio that also are polluted, it would be advisable to water test those bodies of water as well, such as Canoe/Kayak, Rowing, Triathlon, Pentathlon.

There is an overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence. Many articles have been written by the AP, UPI, BBC and other credible news outlets easily found on the internet that describe regular mass fish die offs (without explanation of cause), efforts to clean the water thwarted by bankruptcy, or lack of funding. The effort to do stage one water treatment (1' X 1' screening) that failed and specially designed floating tractors to skim trash from the surface that lost funding last month.

Thank you for your attention to this pressing matter. I look forward to your answers to the questions above.

Sincerely,
Glenn T. McCarthy (signed)

* Mailed to:

Representative Jim Langevin, Co-Chair
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Ed Perlmutter, Co-Chair
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative David Reichert, Co-Chair
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Jon Runyan, Co-Chair
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Senator Michael Bennet, Co-Chair
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Co-Chair
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Senator Orrin Hatch, Co-Chair
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Senator Johnny Isakson, Co-Chair
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Marsha Blackburn
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Bruce Braley
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Dave Camp
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Jim Costa
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Susan Davis
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Darrell Issa
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Jim Himes
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Peter King
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative John Lewis
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Zoe Lofgren
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Stephen Lynch
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Jeff Miller
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Richard Neal
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Loretta Sanchez
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Chris Smith
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Lamar Smith
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Lee Terry
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Henry Waxman
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Ed Whitfield
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Blake Farentold
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Ann McLane Kuster
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Dave Loebsack
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Senator Ed Markey
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Doris Matsui
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

Representative Mark Takano
Congressional Olympic & Paralympic Caucus

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