Rio Olympics clean up bay with GPS, helicopters

August 8, 2016  - By
Image: GPS World

Before each day of Olympic sailing kicks off, an air and water team is gathering any floating rubbish in Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay. Helicopters circling above spot floating trash and send GPS coordinates to trash-collecting boats that sweep up the debris, reports the Associated Press.

Other stop-gaps to enable sailing in the polluted bay include floating barriers to keep rubbish from entering the bay, using naturally occurring microbes to break down pollutants, and hygiene briefings for sailors and staff, who treat themselves with anti-bacterials after entering the water.

Besides pollutants, another obstacle is discarded furniture. A Sky News reporter tweeted that an Olympic kayaker on a practice run capsized after hitting a sofa. The Olympic organizers are currently investigating, while the Twitter world entertains itself with the tag #kayaksofa.

It is estimated that at least half of Rio’s sewage flows untreated into its waters, rife with unseen viruses and bacteria. A year-long, independent study by AP has shown high levels of viruses and sometimes bacteria from human sewage in the bay, where hundreds of sailors and windsurfers are competing for medals.

Rio state officials have acknowledged a real cleanup of Guanabara will take 20 years, though organizers originally promised to complete the cleanup in time for the Olympics.

In response to the need to keep the planet’s waters clean, one English company is developing a solar-powered, autonomous “sea vacuum” designed to clean up plastic.


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About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.