Olympic officials on Saturday gave what they said was a definitive explanation as to why the water in two competition pools turned green this week. Someone, according to the officials, mistakenly added 160 liters of hydrogen peroxide on August 5, which neutralized the chlorine and allowed the growth of “organic compounds.”
Athletes have been complaining that the water or the chemicals treating it hurt their eyes – and that the murkiness made underwater visibility impossible.
Synchronized swimming, in which athletes will have to be able to see each other below the surface, is scheduled to start on Sunday. Mario Andrada, a spokesman for the Rio Games, said that to ensure the competition could move forward, officials would drain the water from the pool and replace it with clean water from a nearby practice pool.
The procedure, which will drain 3,725,000 liters of water, is expected to take 10 hours. It will take six hours to drain the pool and then four hours to refill it, according to Gustavo Nascimento, the director of venue management for the Rio Olympics.
Andrada and Nascimento held a news conference on Saturday at the site of the pools. They said that they did not want to assign blame for the mishap, even though it appeared that the problem was caused by a local pool-maintenance worker who believed he was doing the right thing.
“The electronic monitoring system that measures the amount of chlorine in the water was betrayed by this chemistry,” Nascmiento said. While the monitors showed that there was an appropriate amount of chlorine in the water, they failed to register that the chlorine was no loner working.
“Of course it’s an embarrassment,” Andrada said. “We are hosting the Olympic Games, and the 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.”