Apr 13, 2015 6:22 PM

Fish die-off hits Olympic lake in Rio

The Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Dead fish continued to wash up Monday on the banks of a Rio de Janeiro lake that's slated to hold Olympic rowing competitions during the 2016 games.

Fish die-offs are a frequent occurrence in Rio's waterways, which are choked with raw sewage and garbage. The latest incident, affecting thousands of small silvery fish called twaite shad, began several days ago at the Rodrigo de Freitas lake, where the Olympic canoeing and rowing events are to be held.

With neighbors complaining about the stench, employees of the city's waste management company worked Monday to clear away the dead fish.

"Every year there are these die-offs, sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller," said photographer Alex Moutinho, who has lived near the lake for over three decades. "It's one more Brazilian shame."

In a statement, the city's environmental secretariat said the latest incident was the result of recent rains and high sea levels, which caused the lake's water temperature to plummet. The statement stressed that twaite shad are sensitive to variations in temperature, adding that oxygen levels in the lake were normal.

Previous fish die-offs in the lake have been blamed on pollution-related drops in oxygen levels. The cause of February die-off of twaite shad in the Guanabara Bay, where the Olympic sailing events are to be held, were not known.

Rio's water quality has become a contentious topic ahead of the 2016 Olympics. Authorities had pledged to clean up some of the waterways including the Guanabara Bay ahead of the games but now admit those promises won't be met, sparking sailors to voice worries about possible health and safety threats posed by competing in the sewage- and garbage-filled waters.

Residents concerned about the water quality of a canal in the Rio neighborhood of Recreio staged a protest Sunday. Hundreds of demonstrators linked arms along the Canal das Taxas, which is filled with raw sewage from nearby condominiums. The canal flows into a lagoon where the Olympic Park is being built.


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