Activists protest Rio water, filthy despite Olympic promises

This July 31, 2017 photo, shows the heavily polluted Jacarepagua lagoon, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In it's Olympic bid, Rio promised to clean up the bay and up its treatment of sewage, promises that were not kept. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
This July 31, 2017 photo, shows the heavily the polluted Jacarepagua lagoon, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio pledged in its Olympic bid to treat 80 percent of its water waste before the start of the Games, but it failed to deliver on that promise. A study commissioned by The Associated Press shows dangerously high levels of contamination. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this July 31, 2017 photo, men transport their belongings on a boat over the polluted Jacarepagua lagoon, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio pledged in its Olympic bid to treat 80 percent of its water waste before the start of the Games, but it failed to deliver on that promise. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this July 31, 2017 photo, a trash barrier hold back the surface filth of the heavily polluted Jacarepagua lagoon, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio pledged in its Olympic bid to treat 80 percent of its water waste before the start of the Games, but it failed to deliver on that promise. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In tis July 31, 2017 photo, residents of Rio das Pedras neighborhood leave their boat moored on the polluted shore of Jacarepagua lagoon, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio pledged in its Olympic bid to treat 80 percent of its water waste before the start of the Games, but it failed to deliver on that promise. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this July 31, 2017 photo, a trash barrier hold back the surface filth at the heavily polluted Jacarepagua lagoon, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio pledged in its Olympic bid to treat 80 percent of its water waste before the start of the Games, but it failed to deliver on that promise. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this July 31, 2017 photo Biologist Mario Moscatelli speaks during an interview with the AP on the shores of Guanabara bay, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio pledged in its Olympic bid to treat 80 percent of its water waste before the start of the Games, but it failed to deliver on that promise. A study commissioned by The Associated Press showed dangerously high levels of contamination. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this July 31, 2017 photo, a discarded doll lays amid scattered garbage on the shores of Guanabara Bay, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In it's Olympic bid, Rio promised to clean up the bay and up its treatment of sewage, promises that were not kept. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this July 31, 2017 photo, shows Rio das Pedras neighborhood on the shores of the heavily polluted Jacarepagua lagoog, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In it's Olympic bid, Rio promised to clean up the bay and up its treatment of sewage, promises that were not kept. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this , July 31, 2017 photo, discarded sofas litter the shore of Guanabara bay, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio pledged in its Olympic bid to treat 80 percent of its water waste before the start of the Games, but it failed to deliver on that promise. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this July 31, 2017 photo, a man motors his boat in the polluted Jacarepagua lagoon, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio pledged in its Olympic bid to treat 80 percent of its water waste before the start of the Games, but it failed to deliver on that promise. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this July 31, 2017 photo, a discarded doll lays amid scattered garbage in Guanabara Bay, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In it's Olympic bid, Rio promised to clean up the bay and up its treatment of sewage, promises that were not kept. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
In this July 31, 2017 photo, a discarded sofa is seen in the polluted Jacarepagua lagoon, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio pledged in its Olympic bid to treat 80 percent of its water waste before the start of the Games a year ago, but it failed to deliver on that promise. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

RIO DE JANEIRO — Environmental activists sailed across Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay on Saturday to protest pollution in the city's waterways and broken promises to clean them up around the 2016 Olympics.

The silent flotilla coincided with the one-year anniversary of the start of the Rio Games. The Brazilian city pledged in its Olympic bid to treat 80 percent of its water waste by the time the Games began, but failed to deliver on that promise.

Days ahead of the Games, a study commissioned by The Associated Press showed dangerously high levels of contamination.

Sergio Ricardo, founder of the collective Baia Viva, led about 50 activists and fishermen across Guanabara Bay. Many boats displayed banners demanding improved sanitation.

"The Bay is still alive, fishing is still alive and marine life resists despite the (inaction by) authorities. But society has to fight for its own environmental health," said Ricardo.

With the Olympics long over and the country in the midst of an economic crisis, expectations of any improvement are now low.

At various times this year, the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon - the most popular with tourists - have been deemed too unclean for bathing by the State Environmental Institute. The waters of Botafogo, Flamengo and nearly half of the Barra da Tijuca seashore have consistently been listed as "unbatheable."

The lagoons have fared even worse. Much touted by the International Olympic Committee as among the legacy works for the Games, the recovery of the Tijuca, Camorim and Jacarepagua lagoons fell behind schedule and was later interrupted.

Mario Moscatelli, a biologist and longtime environmental advocate, thinks the cleanup was never a priority.

"The authorities did nothing when Brazil was doing well, when they were looking forward to the Games and money was not lacking. What would they do now that they have the great excuse of the (financial) crisis?"

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