Dirty Water is Escalating
~ Amy Lignor
The argument between the EPA and various governing bodies from the state of Colorado to the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah – you name it – has been taking over the headlines. This came about because of an EPA project to open up an old gold mine in Colorado, releasing horrific water filled with leads and poisonous chemicals out into the creeks which now has the Animas River, as
well as many others in trouble, and the Native American community up in arms. This is one “dirty water” accident that will take who knows how long to clean up…even though the ones in “charge” stated at the beginning that it was basically not a problem and would be a “non-issue” in a jiffy.
Well, now, dirty water headlines are reaching even further. Although the debate regarding the water quality in Rio where the Olympics will be held next year, has been stated before, things have escalated. In fact, just this week, the head of swimming’s governing body said dirty water in Rio “is not a big problem.” Athletes even shrugged off the reality of competing in water that could make them extremely ill. Can’t blame the athletes, really. The Olympic dream is huge.
You can blame the International Olympic Committee that, at the beginning, was “shrugging off” the reality that the water in Rio is disgusting, and will make people sick. Now, the IOC said on Sunday that it will order testing for viruses that cause diseases in the sewage-polluted waters where athletes will compete. This is a change in their original statement, considering that before all this hubbub was raised, the Committee and the local Olympic organizers in Rio said they would test the waters, but only for bacteria. (Apparently, Brazil’s mandates regarding testing for water safety only require them to do that.)
From the Associated Press to the beloved Mike & Mike (sports program) running in the U.S. – where they actually challenged IOC Committee members to swim in the horrific water with their families, and send Mike & Mike pictures, because they wanted to see if they would do it – everyone is up in arms about this mess. High counts of viruses that are linked to human refuse were found in the waters of Rio where Olympic athletes will be competing. Thus, the Committee was basically told by the World Health Organization (WHO) that testing of the waters needed to be expanded to include much more than just bacteria testing. Viral testing is now necessary. It was the International Sailing Federation that first announced they would even do their own independent tests for viruses if the IOC did not comply. (They are still moving ahead with their own tests.)
The Associated Press did a five-month test that focused on the waters at each of the venues where athletes will have to have direct contact with substances that may hold very high levels of viruses from the sewage. After they were through with these initial tests, they could not find one – not even one – venue safe for swimming or boating. When you have findings that show any person, athlete or not, that ingests only three teaspoons of this water would have a 99% chance of being infected by a virus, then you know Rio is going to be under massive scrutiny; and should be.
It was already known that in Rio, a majority of sewage goes completely untended and ends up flowing down ditches and streams, carrying everything from the waste of households to dead animals into the Olympic waters.
This is an issue that could literally, if not corrected, cause many to boycott the games in order to keep their athletes healthy. Visitors will cancel trips, money will be lost… In other words, if Rio wants a success, they will have to put in the time and money necessary to make the waters clean.
Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London