Public urination at Glastonbury Festival leaves traces of cocaine and MDMA in the river

Researchers at Bangor University in Wales discovered high levels of cocaine and MDMA in the Whitelake River, which runs through Worthy Farm, where the hugely popular music festival is usually held with more than 200,000 attendees.

The study found that MDMA levels quadrupled the week following the 2019, while cocaine concentrations rose to levels previously shown to affect the life cycle of European eels – which are found in the river and are critically endangered.

Christian Dunn, a professor of wetland science at Bangor University who led the study, told CNN on Tuesday that levels of illegality the drugs were ‘high enough to be classed as harmful to the environment’, although he added the caveat that levels ‘decline quite rapidly after Glastonbury ended’.

Dunn collaborated on the study with master’s student Dan Aberg, who worked alongside Daniel Chaplin of the Center for Environmental Biotechnology, to measure levels of illegal drugs in the river before, during and after the last Glastonbury Festival in 2019.

The researchers said the increase in drug levels came from festival-goers urinate in public, causing the chemicals to eventually enter the river – something that happens particularly quickly in wet weather.

“It highlighted the fact that stopping public urination is so important,” Dunn said. “Not just for traditional pollutants, which we are kind of aware of, but for these types of pollutants, which we have only just become aware of – pharmaceutical waste, illicit drug waste – they are important.”

While Dunn praised the festival’s work in tackling the problem of public urination, he said more research is needed to identify the effects of illegal drugs on ecosystems.

“We need to start pointing out the dangers of these drugs to audiences and festival-goers and say, ‘look, another reason why you shouldn’t pee on the floor, go use the toilet, go use the facilities'” he said. said.

Dunn suggested that treatment wetlands and reed bed systems could be used to help “break down and filter” pollutants that flow into the river and protect wildlife.

The researchers also monitored the nearby Redlake River, but found no significant change in levels of illegal drugs around the time of the festival, suggesting the increase was directly linked to the Glastonbury Festival.

Glastonbury Festival organizers said in a statement to CNN they had put in place a “thorough and successful waterway sampling regime” – in agreement with the Environment Agency – which does not raised no concerns in 2019.

However, Dunn told CNN that the Environment Agency “usually looks for things like ammonia and nitrates and other types of pollutants,” rather than illegal drugs.

“Pissing on the dirt is something we will continue to strongly discourage at future festivals. We also do not condone the use of illegal drugs at Glastonbury,” the festival statement added.

“We look forward to seeing all the details of this new research and would be very happy to work with the researchers to understand their findings and recommendations.”

The study was published in the journal Environmental Research earlier this month.

Jan G. Gilbert