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Wrong Chemical Dumped Into Olympic Pools Made Them Green (arstechnica.com) 180

Z00L00K writes: [Ars Technica reports:] "After a week of trying to part with green tides in two outdoor swimming pools, Olympic officials over the weekend wrung out a fresh mea culpa and yet another explanation -- neither of which were comforting. According to officials, a local pool-maintenance worker mistakenly added 160 liters of hydrogen peroxide to the waters on August 5, which partially neutralized the chlorine used for disinfection. With chlorine disarmed, the officials said that 'organic compounds' -- i.e. algae and other microbes -- were able to grow and turn the water a murky green in the subsequent days. The revelation appears to contradict officials' previous assurances that despite the emerald hue, which first appeared Tuesday, the waters were safe." I would personally have avoided using the green pools, but that's just me. "Hydrogen peroxide is sometimes used in pools -- often to de-chlorinate them," reports Ars. "Basically, the chemical, a common household disinfectant, is a weak acid that reacts with chlorine and chlorine-containing compounds to release oxygen and form other chlorine-containing compounds. Those may not be good at disinfecting pools, but they still may be picked up by monitoring systems. Hydrogen peroxide can also be used to disinfect pools but must be maintained in the waters -- not a one-time dumping -- and can't be used in combination with chlorine." Apparently, the green water irritates eyes and smells like farts.
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Wrong Chemical Dumped Into Olympic Pools Made Them Green

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  • variety (Score:5, Funny)

    by symes ( 835608 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2016 @11:44PM (#52717635) Journal

    I do feel the color options for Olympic pools could be greatly expanded. Green and a slight blue are not enough, We should have red pools and purple pools as well. Deep blues and pinks wouldn't go amiss either. But not yellow pools, that might be distracting.

    • We should have red pools and purple pools as well { ...} and pinks

      You joke, but there *are* actually red algae that could give warm colours to pool watter.
      It's just about waiting that the correct olympic blunders happens....

    • Avoid the purple pool. Sun Yang [sportingnews.com] pissed in it.

    • They just need to have five pools colored blue, green, red, yellow, and black. Arranged in the proper order of course.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 16, 2016 @11:44PM (#52717637)

    Just happened to have 100+ gallons of hydrogen peroxide sitting around.

    More likely, they tried to be clever and use it in an attempt to sanitize the pool after a test for high bacterial load.

  • They can build decent aircraft but can't figure out how to properly maintain a pool... and for the Olympics no less... geez...

    • Re: Brazil... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's not nearly as simple as that. In terms of outdoor water supplies, I'm not sure it's particularly dangerous. Bacteria break down quickly in tropical water, though viruses are a bigger problem. But there are plenty of nasty water supplies in other places. For example, there are brain eating amoebas that live in deeper water in the United States. While water treatment means human activities don't pollute the water like in Brazil, plenty of other nasty things can live there, including things that don't die

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      They can build decent aircraft but can't figure out how to properly maintain a pool... and for the Olympics no less... geez...

      Brazil has nice big beaches, full of topless chicks, covering up their butts with shoestring bikinis.

      Why would anyone want to go to a pool at all . . . ?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by h33t l4x0r ( 4107715 )
        The turds and the muggings are kind of a turn off.
      • Brazil has nice big beaches, full of topless chicks, covering up their butts with shoestring bikinis. Why would anyone want to go to a pool at all . . . ?

        Because last time I checked they weren't handing out Olympic diving medals on the beach. I'm pretty sure the "topless chicks" are not much of a draw to the female divers or the gay male divers so there's that too...

        • How about a new competition: "Beach Strip Volleyball" . . . ?

          Each side starts with ten players, and when the ball doesn't get over the net, the last person to touch the ball must take off a piece of clothing. Naked folks get tossed off the court, when they make an error, so the folks on the court dwindle down.

          Now that would be a sport that I would watch!

    • To build aircraft, politicians are not involved.
      • by caseih ( 160668 )

        Um, no. Like the aviation industry in any country, including the US and Europe, building commercial aircraft always involves government. Embraer takes it share of government subsidies and likely has to deal with the resulting meddling that comes with that.

  • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Wednesday August 17, 2016 @12:33AM (#52717753)

    The revelation appears to contradict officials' previous assurances that despite the emerald hue, which first appeared Tuesday, the waters were safe.

    How does this work? You don't want tons of algae growing in your pool, but there's nothing particularly dangerous about it. It reduces the ability of chlorine to sanitize the water, which still doesn't make the pools "unsafe", and since they reportedly dumped in a bunch of extra chlorine anyway (that's what was irritating the athletes' eyes)... Again, how does this contradict the officials' previous statements?

    I'm not a pool expert, maybe there's something I don't know here, but you can't just throw in a sentence like that and offer nothing to back it up. I even checked the article and everything (going above and beyond here) - nada.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 17, 2016 @01:43AM (#52717901)

      Since the "officials" had no knowledge of how the pool was treated, they cannot offer assurances that it's "safe." They just don't know.

      Dumping in a lot of chlorine is not sufficient to sanitize a pool. The PH also needs to be in the proper range (7.2 - 7.8). The water also needs to be pumped through the filter for 8 - 12 hours a day (24 if cleaning up a green pool). The surfaces of the pool need to be brushed to move dead algae from the pool surface into the water (after which the filter will catch it).

    • From the summary:

      Apparently, the green water irritates eyes and smells like farts.

      Both are indications the water is not suitable to swim in. It should not smell bad (bad smells are generally caused by something that's bad for us, we've evolved to find such compounds repulsive), and certainly not be irritating to the eyes. So, no, it was not safe.

    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      You don't want tons of algae growing in your pool, but there's nothing particularly dangerous about it. It reduces the ability of chlorine to sanitize the water, which still doesn't make the pools "unsafe"

      If they can't get the big stuff like algae under control, what other smaller, more harmful microorganisms are hanging around due to the lack of proper sanitation?

    • by Pulzar ( 81031 )

      You don't want tons of algae growing in your pool, but there's nothing particularly dangerous about it.

      They are growing because of lack of adequate levels of chlorine, i.e. adequate sanitation. All kinds of other bad things are growing in there along with it.

      Dumping some chlorine in doesn't solve the problem, as that chlorine gets used up extremely quickly trying to kill the vast amounts of organic life in the pool that's making it look green. It can take several days of continuous pumping, filtering, and s

  • ...Pool supply company Eurinott has announced the release of a new chemical that reacts quickly with chlorine to produce a remarkable and embarrassing colour change when people relieve themselves in your pool.

    • ...Pool supply company Eurinott has announced the release of a new chemical that reacts quickly with chlorine to produce a remarkable and embarrassing colour change when people relieve themselves in your pool.

      All joking aside... I've heard that people receiving themselves in a swimming pool is what makes the chlorine smell so strong, due to a reaction between uric acid and chlorine.

      • by FrankSchwab ( 675585 ) on Wednesday August 17, 2016 @03:20AM (#52718085) Journal

        Partly.

        The "chlorine" smell in pools is from Chloramines - a compound made of chorine and amines (ammonia). You get more of it from urine, but it'll build up anyway from other sources. The Chloramines are also what stings and irritates the eyes, nose, and lungs.

        How do you get rid of it? Raise the free chlorine level in the pool to 10 ppm or so (normal range is 1 - 3 ppm). Presto, changeo, the pool stops smelling like chlorine.

        Cryptosporidium is a difficult to remove parasite that can exist in pool water. How do you treat pool water that's been contaminated with crypto? Raise the chlorine level to 10 ppm for 24 hours (20 ppm if you use stabilized chlorine).

        Me? I just keep my pool between 10-20 ppm chlorine all the time. Crystal clear water, no algae, no eye irritation, no chlorine smell, no nasties in the water, no side effects at all. My kids swim in it eyes wide open for hours at a time, friends come over and say "I'm glad you don't use too much chlorine; I can't even smell it".

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by RedEars ( 1622495 )
          What FC (free chlorine) level is necessary to maintain a sanitized pool is entirely dependent on the current CYA (stabilizer) level. The more stabilizer present, the higher FC level that is needed. CYA is needed to protect FC from UV light but too much is a bad thing. For example, if you have 30 ppm CYA, you MUST maintain at least 2 ppm FC or greater at all times. If your CYA is at 60 ppm, you must maintain at least 5 ppm FC or greater at all times. This is for normal, daily sanitation. Minimum FC = 7.5% of
          • Indoor pools, it's not necessary to use CYA,

            Not that I'm ever likely to have a swimming pool at home (more likely to live where the snorkelling and SCUBA diving would tempt me out to sea), but does "indoor pool" include one open to the air but with a sufficiency of sunroof (VIS translucent plastic, whatever) to keep UV levels on the water surface low? I'm assuming that it's the UV that does for your free chlorine by photodissociation and the free Cl* radicals being mopped up by any organic molecules around.

        • My kids swim in it eyes wide open for hours at a time

          How do they manage to go that long without blinking?

  • Where did it go from green to unsafe?

    I understand that smells like fart is not usually a good thing, but is is just a sulfur emanation without any risk of bacterial infection? I'm nor a good chemist nor biologist, so this is where I stop.
    • Don't know about the unsafe part, but the decision to dump the pool was partly made to allow the judges and spectators to see the synchronized swimmers in action.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In a venue as big as the Olympics. I am wondering how Rio support people couldn't manage to have a knowledgeable staff to maintain the pools? Nothing to me seems more important for achievement then proper equipment. Rio seems to have suffered in many areas from ineffective staffing and maintenance. It's pretty scary when you have Police riding around with automatic rifles and swat gear. I think the Olympic committee needs a better way of choosing a host for the Olympics. Maybe based on existing facilities r

    • by Clsid ( 564627 )

      Because in Latin America, it is very common to hire somebody that seems to be totally qualified for something, and then it turns out they really did not know their stuff that well. I also think the Olympic Committee should have a way to make a country lose the right to host, if things are not ready like 2 months before or something. So that when a host is selected, a backup host with a country that has most of the stuff ready can be selected. That would be a way more effective way to pressure a host to get

      • Because in Latin America, it is very common to hire somebody that seems to be totally qualified for something, and then it turns out they really did not know their stuff that well.

        You would think for something like the Olympics they might be able to dig up someone who knows how to treat a swimming poll correctly. You would thing FINA [fina.org] might have had the topic come up once or twice.

        I also think the Olympic Committee should have a way to make a country lose the right to host, if things are not ready like 2 months before or something. So that when a host is selected, a backup host with a country that has most of the stuff ready can be selected.

        Why would any country agree to be a backup host? They're supposed to spend millions of dollars getting ready for an event that will probably never happen? It's not like the IOC would pay for it. And realistically there really is maybe 2-3 countries who could host something the scale of the Olympics on sh

  • Good chemists needed (Score:5, Informative)

    by methano ( 519830 ) on Wednesday August 17, 2016 @07:49AM (#52718509)
    Over the last 15 years, good chemists all over the world have been losing their jobs. Wages have been stagnant for 20 years. Those MBA types keep thinking any jackass can be hired to do the job. Well, this is what happens when you hire a jackass to do chemistry. You get green pools to put out for the whole freaking world to see. And you end up looking cheap and stupid. Well, us chemists are laughing our asses off while we stand in the unemployment line.
    • So you went through 4+ years of college to be a pool boy?

      I would have thought there would be more exciting work, like in pharmaceuticals, food industry (the next next Coca-Cola), or even defense (materials science and such).
    • Those MBA types keep thinking any jackass can be hired to do the job. Well, this is what happens when you hire a jackass to do chemistry. You get green pools to put out for the whole freaking world to see. And you end up looking cheap and stupid. Well, us chemists are laughing our asses off while we stand in the unemployment line.

      While I agree with you about the plight of chemists in recent years (I have a friend in the field who was laid off recently), I also think that pool management doesn't really require complex chemistry. There are just a handful of common chemicals used in pools, and they all have very specific ways they should be used (and ways they should NOT be used, as in this instance). Idiot-proof testing strips, etc. are available to make sure you get concentrations right, etc.

      Millions of people without degrees in

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
      I guess we should round up all MBAs and make them wear patches and all live together in a ghetto, right? That will solve all the problems.

      I'm an engineer with an MBA. Nothing in my studies ever suggested to cut corners for short term profits. It was focused on long term growth strategies and employee development. To remain globally competitive you have to build from within. The companies that are off shoring functions will most likely find themselves in more trouble a few years down the road. Yes, t
      • Scapegoating (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Wednesday August 17, 2016 @10:25AM (#52719139)

        I'm an engineer with an MBA.

        As am I. I went to business school concurrently with my engineering masters to learn how to better manage the projects I work on. Frankly there are a lot of bitter engineers here on Slashdot that are looking for a scapegoat for what they perceive (sometimes rightly) as injustices in the workplace. Blaming "MBAs" is their modern version of blaming Jews or moneylenders as an easily demonized group that in reality has little or nothing to do with the actual problems. It's just tribal scapegoating. There are just as many incompetent engineers as there are incompetent business majors. I run into both almost daily.

        I treat anyone who blames "MBAs" with a sort of corollary to Godwin's law [wikipedia.org]. As a discussion progresses the probability of some idiot scapegoating "MBAs" for a problem approaches 1. If they blame MBAs for a problem they no longer have a reasoned argument to make based on actual facts and so they lose the argument and the discussion is over.

        Nothing in my studies ever suggested to cut corners for short term profits. It was focused on long term growth strategies and employee development. To remain globally competitive you have to build from within.

        This is 100% true. I remember several case studies being used to highlight the dangers of seeking short term profits through financial engineering. The professors took substantial pains to show how short term profit seeking will often backfire long term and damage a company.

        The companies that are off shoring functions will most likely find themselves in more trouble a few years down the road.

        I've actually done some work in global sourcing and I can confirm this anecdotally. Offshoring tends to result in all sorts of management headaches and quality problems. Send work to China and you'd better have someone actually in China to keep an eye on things. I had a client some years ago who blew up their supply chain and sent work all over the place and only then realized that it caused all sorts of quality, logistics and lead time problems. Not to mention that shipping parts halfway around the world often eats away much of the savings.

  • spilled his bong in the pool again...

  • So now all the swimmers and divers are platinum blonde?

  • This coming from the same people that think Chemistry is not an exact science. It is not surprise to me. Quote: “We first learned that chemistry is not an exact science,” Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada told the AP Friday. Citation: http://time.com/4451260/rio-20... [time.com]
  • I wish they still made those Warwick Davis Leprechaun movies. They could totally have an olympics one, where he dissolves some gold thief in the pool. OMFG, gold thief! The Leprechaun could be in the olympics, and he's pissed that other contestants are winning "his" gold medals. It's perfect; the movie writes itself.

    But the last two (no, the last three, but especially the "Hood" ones) totally sucked, so I understand why they don't make 'em anymore. My friends and I were so pissed that the "Hood" ones sucke

  • They could have turned red [biblegateway.com].

  • These games just shows how badly organized Brazil is/were to prepare these games. I see this in software development all the time, when a project is badly organized, things are late, patched up and rushed. The end result is visible when released with numerous bugs and shortcomings.
  • Disclosure: My father-in-law maintains the pools at a local University.

    This isn't like maintaining your above-ground backyard pool whereby you dump chemicals in by the bucket. These modern pools are computer controlled and have constant monitoring by the systems. As the system detects a change in PH or other imbalance, it automatically adjusts what chemicals are needed to be added. For 99% of maintenance it's about topping off the chemicals in the containers that the system draws from. These pools aren'

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