RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 13 (UPI) — A spokesman for the Olympic Games in Rio said the reason the swimming and diving pools at the aquatic venue turned green was the mistaken addition of hydrogen peroxide by a contractor.
Mario Andrada, a spokesman for the Rio Games, told reporters at a press conference at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center the reason the water began to turn green several days ago was because 160 liters of hydrogen peroxide were added to the chemicals meant to cleanse the water.
Hydrogen peroxide is one chemical commonly used to prevent algae from growing in swimming pools but when used in tandem with another common element, chlorine, the latter is rendered ineffective.
Officials said a contractor added the hydrogen peroxide on Aug. 5, thinking he was doing the right thing. The individual responsible was not identified.
Andrada said the chemical monitoring system meant to ensure the proper amount of chlorine had been added did not tip off maintenance staff to the pending problem because it continued to detect the presence of chlorine in the water, even though its effect had been rendered useless by the addition of the hydrogen peroxide.
Athletes have complained the green water smells and the chemicals being used to kill off what Andrada described as “organic compounds” was causing their eyes to burn.
German diver Stephan Feck shared a picture of himself and a teammate on Facebook standing in front of the diving well, which was temporarily closed Friday. The two are holding their noses with Feck writing the entire building smelled like a “fart.”
Additionally, the murky color has posed a problem for underwater vision, which posed a major problem for the upcoming synchronized swimming competition that is scheduled to begin Sunday. Synchronized swimmers rely on being able to see one another underwater to coordinate their intricately timed maneuvers.
In response, Andrada said officials will drain the synchronized swimming pool and replace the water with clean water from a practice pool in the facility.
The process of draining 1 million gallons of water and replacing it is expected to take about 10 hours. Officials did not say whether the change will force any events to be rescheduled.
The water in the diving well will not be replaced.
Andrada apologized for the embarrassing incident, acknowledging Rio organizers were slow to address the problem and subsequent attempts to do so were ineffective.
“Of course it’s an embarrassment,” he said. “We are hosting the Olympic Games and athletes are here so water is going to be an issue. We should have been better in fixing it quickly. We learned painful lessons the hard way.”