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Rio's Olympic water venues are 'basically raw sewage'

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RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

The Associated Press published an investigation on the water quality in Rio de Janeiro, almost a year before the 2016 Olympics are supposed to take place. What they found is that, according to marine biologist John Griffith, the water in Rio is "basically raw sewage." If you're a water-based athlete getting ready for 2016, this is definitely not a thing you want to hear.

Here are some things that stood out from the report:

Some of the tests measured 1.7 million times the level of viruses that would be considered unsafe in California:

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, with results ranging from 14 million adenoviruses per liter on the low end to 1.7 billion per liter at the high end.

By comparison, water quality experts who monitor beaches in Southern California become alarmed if they see viral counts reaching 1,000 per liter.

As of now, pretty much all the Olympic water venues are not safe for competition:

The AP commissioned four rounds of testing in each of those three Olympic water venues, and also in the surf off Ipanema Beach, which is popular with tourists but where no events will be held. Thirty-seven samples were checked for three types of human adenovirus, as well as rotavirus, enterovirus and fecal coliforms.

The AP viral testing, which will continue in the coming year, found not one water venue safe for swimming or boating, according to global water experts.

There's a 99% chance of getting sick from consuming merely 3 tablespoons of Rio's water:

Kristina Mena, a U.S. expert in risk assessment for waterborne viruses, examined the AP data and estimated that international athletes at all water venues would have a 99 percent chance of infection if they ingested just three teaspoons of water — though whether a person will fall ill depends on immunity and other factors.

They were supposed to build eight treatment facilities, but only ended up with one:

A culture of mismanagement stymied any progress. For years, none of four sewage treatment plants built with the Japanese funds operated at full capacity. One of the plants in the gritty Duque de Caxias neighborhood didn't treat a drop of waste from its construction in 2000 through its inauguration in 2014. For 14 years, it wasn't connected to the sewage mains.

By then, the Japanese agency rated the project as "unsatisfactory," with "no significant improvements in the water quality of the bay."

As part of its Olympic project, 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.

The AP's report is both fascinating and unsettling, and it's definitely worth a read. Now we wait to see if things improve by the time the 2016 Olympics start.

(via Associated Press)