Brazil data: Olympic water 'unfit' for triathletes to swim

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Tests Find High Levels of Contamination in Waters for Rio Games


RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- The Brazilian government's most recent data on water pollution in Rio de Janeiro show that water near where triathletes are preparing to compete this weekend is "unfit" for swimming.

The designation, based on fecal coliform bacteria levels, is available on the website of the Rio de Janeiro environmental agency.

The most recent pollution reading at Copacabana Beach was taken from a sample this past Monday. An Olympic qualifier and Paratriathlon event begins Saturday, and several athletes were already getting into the water Friday morning.

The Rio environmental agency didn't respond to requests for comment about whether they have carried out more recent testing this week.

Teams gathered on Copacabana Beach said the International Triathlon Union (ITU) gave them guarantees the water was safe in the areas where the parathletes trained.

"The information we have is that it's safe to swim," said Amanda Duke, team manager for the U.S. paratriathlon team.

Athletes said that the conditions of the water appeared better than they were expecting. But water experts and the government's own pollution monitoring officials all note that sewage pollution typically isn't something that can be seen by the naked eye.

The ITU said it's not doing its own tests on the water, but has requested specific information from local authorities about the water quality.

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Filthy Rio water a threat at 2016 Olympics
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Brazil data: Olympic water 'unfit' for triathletes to swim
This July 27, 2015 aerial photo shows the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An Associated Press analysis of water quality found dangerously high levels of viruses and bacteria from human sewage in Olympic and Paralympic venues. The Rodrigo de Freitas Lake, which was largely cleaned up in recent years, was thought be safe for rowers and canoers. Yet AP tests found its waters to be among the most polluted for Olympic sites. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
In this July 12, 2015 photo, a boy walks with his father's catch of the day from the Marina da Gloria, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The head of Rio's Infectious Diseases Society said contaminated waters in beaches and lakes has led to "endemic" public health woes among Brazilians, primarily infectious diarrhea in children. By adolescence, he said, people in Rio have been so exposed to the viruses in the water their bodies build up antibodies. But foreign athletes and tourists won’t have that protection. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
This July 27, 2015 aerial photo shows Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Water quality monitoring was supposed to be beefed up along the city’s picture postcard beaches, including Copacabana, where the marathon swimming competition is to be staged. An Associated Press analysis of the water quality showed the beach waters laden with sewage viruses. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
In this July 14, 2015 photo, beachgoers wade into the waters of Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An Associated Press analysis of water quality found not one water venue safe for swimming or boating in Rio's waters. Over 10,000 athletes from 205 countries are expected to compete in next year's Summer Olympics. Hundreds of them will be sailing in the waters near Marina da Gloria in Guanabara Bay; swimming off Copacabana Beach; and canoeing and rowing on the brackish waters of the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
FILE - In this April 16, 2015 file photo, athletes Diego Nazario, back, and Emanuel Dantas Borges, train in the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake, surrounded by dead small silvery fish, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Despite decades of official pledges to clean up the mess, the stench of raw sewage still greets travelers touching down at Rio's international airport. Prime beaches are deserted because the surf is thick with putrid sludge, and periodic die-offs leave the Olympic lake, Rodrigo de Freitas, littered with rotting fish. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)
In this July 15, 2015 photo, sewage spews into the waters of the Marina da Gloria in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Extreme water pollution is common in Brazil, where the majority of sewage is not treated, and much of the raw waste runs through open-air ditches to streams and rivers that feed the Olympic water sites. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
In this April 28, 2015 photo, Fernando Spilki, virologist and coordinator of the environmental quality program at Feevale University, holds up a water sample, backdropped by the Marina da Gloria, Zone 2, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Spilki said the tests he conducted for the Associated Press so far show that Rio's waters "are chronically contaminated." (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
This July 27, 2015 aerial photo shows the Alegria Sewage Treatment Plant, located alongside the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Starting in 1993, Japan’s international cooperation agency poured hundreds of millions of dollars into a Guanabara clean-up project. The Inter-American Development bank later issued a $452 million loan for more works. A culture of corruption stymied any progress. For years, none of four sewage treatment plants built with the Japanese money operated at full capacity. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
In this July 28, 2015 photo, a water canal surrounds housing in the Mare slum complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Extreme water pollution is common in Brazil, where the majority of sewage is not treated, and much of the raw waste runs through open-air ditches to streams and rivers that feed the Olympic water sites. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this July 9, 2015 photo, doctoral candidate Rodrigo Staggemeier works to analyze samples collected from the waters of Rio de Janeiro, at the Feevale University in Novo Hamburgo, Brazil. The testing conducted for the Associated Press looked for three different types of human adenovirus that are typical "markers" of human sewage in Brazil. The coordinator of the environmental quality program at the university in southern Brazil, said the tests for the AP so far show that Rio's waters "are chronically contaminated." (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
In this July 28, 2015 photo, workers remove garbage collected by floating waste barriers in a canal at the Mare slum complex, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio's historic sewage problem spiraled over the past decade as the population exploded with many of the metropolitan area's 12 million residents settling in the vast slums that ring the bay. Waste flows into over 50 streams that empty into the once-crystalline Guanabara Bay. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
FILE - In this June 1, 2015 file photo, a discarded sofa litters the shore of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As part of its Olympic bid, Brazil promised to build eight treatment facilities to filter out much of the sewage and prevent tons of household trash from flowing into the Guanabara Bay. Only one has been built. Tons of household trash line the coastline and form islands of refuse. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
In this April 28, 2015 photo, Fernando Spilki, the head of the environmental studies program at Feevale University, takes water samples from the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With little to no sewage treatment, Spilki said, "the quantity of fecal matter entering the waterbodies in Brazil is extremely high. Unfortunately, we have levels comparable to some African nations, to India." (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this June 5, 2015 photo, fetid water flows out of a storm drain that dumps into the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake, where Olympic rowing competitions are slated to be held during the 2016 games, in Rio de Janeiro. Extreme water pollution is common in Brazil, where the majority of sewage is not treated, and much of the raw waste runs through open-air ditches to streams and rivers that feed the Olympic water sites. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
This July 27, 2015 aerial photo shows fluorescent green waters in the Marapendi Lagoon, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The lagoons that hug the Olympic Park and which the government’s own data shows are among the most polluted waters in Rio were to be dredged, but the project got hung up in bureaucratic hurdles and has yet to start. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
In this July 13, 2015 photo, backdropped by Sugar Loaf Mountain, a worker sets up a fence in preparation for an Olympic test event, at the Marina da Gloria, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Over 10,000 athletes from 205 countries are expected to compete in next yearís games. Hundreds of them will be sailing in the waters near Marina da Gloria in Guanabara Bay; swimming off Copacabana beach; and canoeing and rowing on the brackish waters of the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
In this July 28, 2015 photo, a boy wades in the beach waters of Flamengo, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Rio Olympic organizing committee's website states that a key legacy of the games will be 'the rehabilitation and protection of the area's environment, particularly its bays and canals" in areas where water sports will take place. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
In this April 28, 2015 photo, Fernando Spilki, the head of the environmental studies program at Feevale University, holds up water samples taken from the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Spilki's testing looked for three different types of human adenovirus that are typical "markers" of human sewage in Brazil. In addition, he tested for enteroviruses, the most common cause of upper respiratory tract infections in the young. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
This July 27, 2015 aerial photo, shows Marina da Gloria in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Construction is underway on a project to cap a pipe that long spewed raw sewage into the marina, the starting place for the Olympic sailing events. Yet Associated Press testing of the marina's water quality found it laden with sewage viruses. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
FILE - In this May 20, 2015 file photo, Nawal El Moutawakel, head of the International Olympic Committee's evaluation commission, right, watches Rio de Janeiro's Mayor Eduardo Paes speak during the inauguration of the Olympic Rings at the Madureira Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Paes has said it's a "shame" the Olympic promises wouldn't be met, adding the games are proving "a wasted opportunity," as far as the waterways are concerned. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)
In this July 16, 2015 photo, members of Austria's Olympic sailing team train in the Rio de Janeiro municipality Niteroi, Brazil. "This is by far the worst water quality we've ever seen in our sailing careers," said Austria's coach Ivan Bulaja. The Austrian sailors take precautions, washing their faces immediately with bottled water when they get splashed by waves and showering the minute they return to shore. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this July 16, 2015 photo, Ivan Bulaja, coach of the Austrian 49er-class sailing team, speaks during an interview, in the Rio de Janeiro municipality Niteroi, Brazil. The Croatian-born coach said his sailors have lost valuable training days while in Brazil after falling ill with vomiting and diarrhea. "This is by far the worst water quality we’ve ever seen in our sailing careers," said Bulaja, whose team has been sailing in Guanabara Bay, where their competition will take place. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this July 13, 2015 photo, athletes practice rowing on a deck in the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Over 10,000 athletes from 205 countries are expected to compete in next year's Olympics games. Nearly 1,400 of them will be sailing in the waters near Marina da Gloria in Guanabara Bay; swimming off Copacabana Beach; and canoeing and rowing on the brackish waters of the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
In this Nov. 7, 2015 photo, a bird carcass lies on the shore of Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio won the right to host the 2016 Olympics based on its bid that promised to clean up the city's waterways by improving sewage sanitation, a pledge that meant to be one of the event's biggest legacies. Brazilian officials now acknowledge that won't happen. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
In this Nov. 5, 2015 photo, workers remove garbage collected by floating waste barriers in the Meriti River, which flows into Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A new round of testing by The Associated Press shows the cityâs Olympic waterways are as rife with pathogens far offshore as they are nearer land, where raw sewage flows into them from fetid rivers and storm drains. . (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this Nov. 5, 2015 photo, trash collects against floating waste barriers in the Meriti River, which flows into the Guanabara Bay, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rioâs waterways, like those of many developing nations, are extremely contaminated because most of the cityâs sewage is not treated, let alone collected. Massive amounts of it flow straight into Guanabara Bay. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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On Thursday, The Associated Press released the results of a five-month investigation into Rio's waters. It showed that Olympic venues are rife with disease-causing viruses and bacteria.

The AP study showed that the spot where athletes were entering the water on Copacabana Beach on Friday had a minimal reading of over 2 million human adenovirus per liter - that's 2,000 times the reading that water experts in the U.S. say would be considering highly alarming if seen on beaches in the U.S. or Europe.

Human adenovirus multiply in the intestinal and respiratory tracts of people. These are viruses that are known to cause respiratory and digestive illnesses, including explosive diarrhea and vomiting, but can also lead to more serious heart, brain and other diseases.

The Rio de Janeiro state government and the state environmental agency in press releases blasted the AP report on Thursday as being alarmist and said it was unfair to judge Rio's waters based on viral counts, limits of which are not designated in Brazilian legislation, nor in that of the U.S. or the EU. The agency also questioned the qualifications of the laboratory where the AP samples were analyzed.

David Zee, an oceanography professor at Rio de Janeiro's state university who has long researched pollution in Guanabara Bay, rejected the government's response, saying that in Brazil "it's natural that the authorities react saying that `everything is fine,' but everything is not fine.

He added that the AP testing "was done in a trustworthy lab."

But the area that was ruled unfit by the Rio environmental agency for swimming earlier this week was based levels of fecal coliforms, which are single-celled organisms that live in the intestines of humans and animals. Fecal coliforms can suggest the presence of cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid.

The site ruled unfit for swimming has also been labeled as off limits on at least eight previous occasions this year.

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