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Pollution Kills Fish in Rio Lagoon

March 7, 2000

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ A leaking sewer line pumped contaminated waste from homes and businesses into a popular Rio lagoon, killing more than 30 tons of fish, officials said Monday.

The horrible smell arising from the rotting fish drove people away from the park-like area surrounding the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon. People usually flock to the lagoon to escape the central city, strolling the waterside and stopping at cafes for snacks and refreshments.

The fish began dying on Sunday 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.

He said the system carries waste from homes and businesses far out into the ocean and deposits them. But it began pumping the waste through a leak in the lagoon when the system became overloaded.

Environmental workers and fishermen working since early Sunday said as much as 30 tons of dead fish had washed ashore.

Area residents shut their windows and cars sped through to get out of the area.

``The smell was insufferable,″ said Alexandre Simoes, an engineer who lives in an apartment building close to the lagoon.

Jair Otero, director of the Urban Cleaning Operations unit, said an early signal of the disaster came in December. ``Four tons of dead fish were found at that time. It was a clear signal of an upcoming disaster but political interference prevented a quick action,″ 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.

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