World Surf League nixes polluted Rio beach for competition

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Pollution Wipes Out Rio De Janeiro Surfing Competition


RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - A sewage-filled Rio de Janeiro beach has been removed from the list of venues for an upcoming surfing competition in the city, the World Surf League said Wednesday.

Spokesman Dave Prodan said in an emailed statement that Sao Conrado beach had to be removed as a competition site "due to pollution issues."

Sao Conrado had been a backup for the May 11-22 Rio Pro event, to be used in case of sub-par waves or other issues at the primary venue, nearby Barra da Tijuca beach.

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World Surf League nixes polluted Rio beach for competition
Pigeons fly over the polluted Botafogo beach at Guanabara Bay during a tour for the press in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. The government of Rio de Janeiro is turning to Dutch experts for help in cleaning up the trash-filled bay in time for the 2016 Olympic sailing events. Researchers have created a system that compiles weather, water-quality data and possibly real-time footage from cameras around the bay to forecast where litter accumulates and travels in the extensive bay of 146 square miles. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Garbage sits on the beach of Fundao Island in Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Friday, April 17, 2015. Guanabara Bay was once rich in diverse aquatic life but has been profoundly damaged by decades of abuse. Now, with the 2016 Olympic Games approaching, the city is in a race against the clock to clean it up. Photographer: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Garbage sits near a boat on the beach of Fundao Island in Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Friday, April 17, 2015. Guanabara Bay was once rich in diverse aquatic life but has been profoundly damaged by decades of abuse. Now, with the 2016 Olympic Games approaching, the city is in a race against the clock to clean it up. Photographer: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Tourists walk next to garbage on Ipanema beach, during a strike by some garbage collectors in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on March 6, 2014. Rio de Janeiro's cleaners got a police escort as they pursued their post-Carnival sweep up after some striking colleagues reportedly threatened them, in some cases with guns, authorities said. AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
Stall-holders clean full trash cans on Ipanema beach, during a strike by some garbage collectors in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on March 6, 2014. Rio de Janeiro's cleaners got a police escort as they pursued their post-Carnival sweep up after some striking colleagues reportedly threatened them, in some cases with guns, authorities said. AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
View of full trash cans on Ipanema beach during a strike by some garbage collectors in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on March 6, 2014. Rio de Janeiro's cleaners got a police escort as they pursued their post-Carnival sweep up after some striking colleagues reportedly threatened them, in some cases with guns, authorities said. AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2015 file photo, a bottle and a wood slat floats with other trash in Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The city's pledge to clean up the blighted waters where the 2016 Olympic sailing events are to be held suffered another setback in March: A prominent Brazilian sailing and environmental organization declined a city contract to help clean up the sewage- and trash-filled Bay. Much of the city's sewage still goes untreated and garbage pick-up is spotty, so tons of raw sewage and trash flow into Guanabara Bay, as well as Rio’s lakes, lagoons and even its celebrated beaches. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)
In this photo taken on Friday, June 15, 2012, a fisherman walks on a trash-ridden beach on Guanabara Bay near the international airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The throngs streaming into Rio for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio+20 may be dreaming of white-sand beaches and clear, blue waters, but what they are first likely to notice as they leave the airport is not the salty tang of ocean in the breeze, but the stench of raw sewage. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
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Wedged between the high-rent Barra da Tijuca and Leblon neighborhoods and two "favela" hillside slums, Sao Conrado is among Rio's most polluted beaches. Much of the sewage from the slums flow untreated directly into the water. A ruptured sewage main has added to the problem in recent days, unleashing a malodorous fountain of untreated waste that is cascaded down a rocky outcropping and into the water, creating a huge brown stain.

The result of spotty infrastructure and chaotic urban planning stretching back decades, Rio's water pollution is in the spotlight ahead of next year's Olympics in the city.

An extensive cleanup of Rio's beaches, lakes, lagoons and its big Guanabara Bay, sites where Olympic aquatic events from sailing to rowing to open-water swimming are to be held, was marketed as one of the main legacies of the games. But with little progress on the promised cleanup, and with local and state authorities acknowledging the Olympic goals won't be met, athletes have begun to voice health and safety concerns about competing in the polluted waters.

In its statement, the World Surf League said it was confident that Barra da Tijuca beach "will deliver excellent conditions" as the primary site for next month's surfing event.

However, biologist Mario Moscatelli, an environmentalist who has been denouncing the state of Rio's waterways for decades, said water quality during the surfing competition will likely depend on wind and tides. Barra da Tijuca is near the spot where the sewage- and trash-filled Jacarepagua lagoon flows into the Atlantic. During low tide, wind can spread the brown patch of contaminated water to Barra da Tijuca.

"You could have a situation where most of the beach is awash in this putrid water," Moscatelli warned in a phone interview.

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