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Dead Fish Removed From Rio Lagoon

March 7, 2000

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ Cleanup crews converged on a lagoon in one of Rio’s most elegant neighborhoods Tuesday to help retrieve tons of rotting fish killed by human and industrial waste spewed from a leaking sewer line.

By early afternoon, crews backed by 25 trucks had retrieved at least 70 tons of fish _ mainly gray mullets, snooks and porgies _ from the 1 1/2- square-mile Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon.

Jair Otero, director of Rio’s Urban Cleaning Co., said the crews still have at least 40 more tons of dead fish to retrieve. He said the crews should be finished in about two days.

The fish began dying on Sunday, mainly because of a leak in the sewer system that passes along the bottom of the lagoon on its way to the sea, said Mario Moscatelli, a biologist and the lagoon’s natural resources manager.

Damage was also caused by the closing of a drainage channel that links the lagoon to the ocean, ``thus sharply reducing the amount of oxygen in the lagoon,″ he said.

The lagoon gets its water mainly from the sea, via a mile-long canal. It is also fed by a few small rivers.

The stench from the rotting fish drove away bikers, skaters, tennis players, joggers and strollers who normally flock to the park surrounding the lagoon, which is dotted with restaurants, outdoor cafes and refreshment stands.

``I’ve been here five years and I never saw something like this,″ said Jose Machado, the owner of a refreshment stand.

Despite the foul odor, Rosa Paes ventured out of her apartment near the lagoon to take her daily stroll in the park.

Lifting the handkerchief she used to cover her nose, Rosa Paes said: ``The smell is unbearable. We have to keep the windows of our apartments shut all day long.″

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