By Stephen Eisenhammer
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A pledge to clean Rio de Janeiro's bay where sailing will be held in 2016 still stands despite the state's top environment official suggesting the target was unattainable, said the Olympic organizing committee.
The cleaning of Guanabara Bay was a key part of Rio's bid and has long been a goal of various local governments. Olympic sailors have complained of floating sofas and animal carcasses in the water, described as a "sewer".
"The position of the committee and the target of the State government to treat 80 percent of the raw sewage remains in place," the organizing committee's head of communications Mario Andrada told reporters on Tuesday.
The remarks appear to contradict those made on Friday by Rio's new state environment secretary Andre Correa who was reported as telling a news conference, "removing 80 percent of the pollutants? It's not going to happen".
Andrada said the divergence did not represent a U-turn but rather differing interpretations of the original pledge.
"There is a fundamental difference between cleaning 80 percent of the bay and treating 80 percent of sewage that runs into the bay," Andrada said, specifying the latter was the metric the organizing committee was working with and which was still attainable.
He explained that a marked improvement had already been achieved.
"We are at 50 percent. We were at 11 percent in 2007," said Andrada, adding there was "no Plan B" for holding the sailing or windsurfing in a different location.
In December the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation research institute said it found a type of "super bacteria" usually associated with hospital waste in a river leading into the bay.
The bacteria, which is resistant to antibiotics, can cause urinary, gastrointestinal and pulmonary infections.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)