Gold, silver, bronze and green

Greg Davies

Greg Davies
Director of Market Development, Assurity Consulting
15th August 2016

Water quality issues (physical, chemical and microbiological) can occur for various reasons, but the explanations for this phenomenon ranged in degrees of popularity and comment but included:

  • the advertising boards (leaking/leaching colour) – very green;
  • being dyed/contaminated (legally or illegally) – at one point the colour resembled the “Rio 2016” green apparently;
  • algae/other organic fouling – often green;
  • pH – too low or too high - could lead chemical changes and minerals/salts precipitating out and too high decreases the effectiveness of chlorine as a biocide;
  • Sun cream – used by competitors and affected by other chemicals
  • urine – needs no explanation;
  • copper – in the water and affected by other chemicals;
  • the “wrong chemicals” (added or not added as the case may be) – all sorts of effects.

While it was initially only the diving pool affected, this had little consequence for the events other than the opportunity for comment. But as the adjacent competition pool started to succumb, the problems of slightly opaque, coloured water for synchronised swimming posed a different issue.

The answer for the problem, according to the New York Times, has been found however and it involved 160 litres of hydrogen peroxide being mistakenly added to the pools. This had the effect of neutralising the chlorine already in each and so allowed the algal growth and discolouration.

Commenting, the director of venue management at Rio 2016, Gustavo Nascimento said - of the Hydrogen peroxide addition - “this is a way of cleaning swimming pools but you're not supposed to combine it with chlorine, he added, "We were not consulted, our contractor's failure is our failure."

The competition pool where the synchronised swimming is starting today has been drained and refilled. Two things immediately spring to mind for me, that are not uncommon failures for most water quality issues, competence and written scheme –  on a broader note, you could also add risk assessment and training to that (although I don’t know how these affected the situation at Rio).