Instastink: A couple of Instagram photos of Rio’s bay pollution problem

GlobalPost
An inlet along the polluted Guanabara Bay, in Sao Goncalo, Brazil, Aug. 13, 2015.
Mario Tama

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Following our post earlier this week on two crazy statistics that illustrate just how bad Rio’s water pollution has become, we thought we’d share a couple of snaps of the filth that now mires the once-crystalline Guanabara Bay.

A couple of weeks ago, GlobalPost took a quick tour around the bay, starting in the Marina da Gloria, right in the heart of the city, which is the main staging ground for the Olympic sailing events.

We didn’t have to wait long to see some disgusting stuff. Here is a floating pile of what looked, and smelled, exactly like human excrement.

This scene was a few feet from a public walkway and a couple hundred yards from where the official boats for the Olympics were being stored. It smelled absolutely awful.

Mario Moscatelli, a local biologist who has campaigned to clean up Rio’s waterways, took a look at the photo for GlobalPost.

“It looks like fecal matter that’s already been pre-treated” Moscatelli wrote in an email. “But that’s just a guess.” He added that he has also photographed untreated feces, condoms and sanitary towels in the bay.

A little later in the afternoon, we cruised over the freeway bridge to Ilha do Fundao, a small island just south of the main airport in Rio. Ilha do Fundao houses part of the campus of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. It must have been very pretty once upon a time.

These days, the southern end of the island, which houses a small community, looks out towards some of the most heavily industrial areas of Guanabara Bay. The tide was pretty low when we were visiting, but the stench still made us gag as we got close to the water.

Hopping over a low breezeblock wall, we saw the true extent of the filth. A little bay of mangrove trees was completely clogged with an evil concoction of black, stinking sludge and trash.

The “water” shone with oil and other contaminants and the smell was almost overwhelming. Looking out into the bay, there was trash and filth as far as the eye could see.

Here’s an Instagram post from the island:

After taking a couple of photos, we knocked on the door of the nearest home and were invited in to talk to the young lady who owns the house, Deline Gomez DaSilva. She told us that at high tide local youngsters come to the waterfront to swim in the fetid bay.

We asked her whether one gets used to the smell, living so close to the water. She shrugged.

“It used to be a lot worse,” she said. “Now, our wastewater goes into the sewers, not just straight into the bay.”

Reached by phone this week, Gomez said kids had been swimming near her house during Rio’s recent rainstorm.

She promised to give us a call next time the tide is high enough so we can get some photos of the kids swimming in the polluted water.