March 01, 2017

Treating Rio’s Wastewater Beyond the Olympics

Erin Flannery Keith

Water quality hit headlines when Rio de Janeiro hosted the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Sailing, surfing, and open-water swimming took place in Guanabara Bay, while rowers and canoeists competed in the adjacent Rodrigo de Frietas Lagoon. Both are polluted with industrial and municipal waste, including bacterial loads that exceed coastal recreational water quality criteria and viral loads for which there are no water quality standards. With a long history of insufficient wastewater infrastructure in Rio, federal, state, and local entities pledged to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to increase treatment before the Games. “The Games will . . . accelerate the implementation, and in some cases the initiation, of major sustainability projects, including those related to environmentally sensitive sites, air quality and waterways.” “Candidature File for Rio de Janeiro to Host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” January 2009, Vol. 1 at 15.

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