Published: Wednesday 30 June 1999

Officials in Brazil's tourist capital Rio de Janeiro were struggling to stop the latest sewage pipe leak polluting the city's famous beaches. Some four million tourists visit Rio each year, but recently the beaches have worn a deserted look, with the few sunbathers staying clear of the less than sparkling seawater. Rio patched up its main sewage line and lifted a month-long swimming ban at most beaches. But the ageing system sprang leaks in other parts, spewing out a fresh wave of contamination along the shoreline. The city authorities had to reimpose no-swimming zones on the main tourist beaches after environmental officials found high levels of pollutants in the surf. The officials felt the pollution would pose a health risk causing hepatitis, typhoid and intestinal parasites.

Locals in the trendy beach neighbourhoods of Leblon and Ipanema have protested as a dark, smelly liquid bubbled up from storm drains, polluting streets and flowing down an open canal that empties into the sea. Residents of Leblon, which has the highest property tax rates in the city, erected a banner on the beach demanding that the authorities clean it up. "Now we have to ask them to clean our sidewalks because that stuff gushing out is certainly not petroleum. What new disgrace will befall Leblon?" residents association president Joao Fontes told reporters.

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