- Scientists sample water in a river near the Glastonbury Festival site in 2019
- It is believed that ecstasy and cocaine enter nearby rivers through public urination
- In June 2022, the Glastonbury Festival is set to receive its first appearance in three years.
A new study suggests drug takers at the Glastonbury Festival are responsible for poisoning local wildlife.
Traces of cocaine in the urine of illicit drugs ecstasy (MDMA) and drug-taking festivals have leaked into a river at the site, according to authors from Bangor University.
The problem stems from drug takers relieving themselves on a tree or shrub or grass on the site, rather than using the festival toilets.
For the study, samples were taken from the Whitlake River both upstream and downstream of the festival site during and after the last Glastonbury Festival in 2019.
They found that the concentration of ecstasy quadrupled a week after the festival, but traces of the drug are present in the river throughout the year, suggesting that it remains in the soil around the site.
Meanwhile, cocaine concentrations rose to levels known to affect the life cycle of the rare European eel (Anguilla anguilla), a protected species.
Researchers found that during the festival, the levels of MDMA and cocaine in the water were so high that it could harm wildlife further downstream, including rare populations of eels. The last Glastonbury Festival was held in 2019 – but it’s set to return in 2022
Dan Eberg, a master student in the School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, worked with Dr. Daniel Chaplin from the Center for Environmental Biotechnology (CEB) to collect the samples.
“Illegal drug contamination from public urine happens at every concert,” Eberg said.
‘The level of release is unknown, but festivals are undoubtedly an annual source of illicit drug releases.’
Samples were taken from the Whitlake River, which cuts through the Glastonbury Festival site
Glastonbury: ‘Please don’t pee on the ground’
Glastonbury Festival has already warned visitors to refrain from urinating on the ground at the site prior to its previous events.
On the official festival website it says, ‘Purinating on the ground in Glastonbury causes toxic contamination of the water table.
‘Groundwater runs for miles into the central Whitelake River and down the canyon. Wildlife and fish are affected if 135,000 fun-lovers pee everywhere.
‘The environmental agency regularly tests the water, and has the power to shut down the site if too many people have urinated and polluted the site.
There are thousands of toilets on site, and we urge you to use them. Environmental health students check toilets twice a day and sweepers and other staff work round the clock to help keep them running.
‘Unfortunately, Glastonbury Festival’s proximity to the river results in little time for any drug released by festival attendees to degrade into the soil before entering the delicate freshwater ecosystem.’
Glastonbury Festival in 2019 advised its visitors against urinating on the ground in the form of signs dotted around the site – but these were largely ignored, the new study shows.
A spokesperson for Glastonbury Festival said: ‘Protecting our local streams and wildlife is of paramount importance to us at Glastonbury Festival and we have a thorough and successful waterway sampling system in place during each Festival as agreed with the Environment Agency.
‘No concerns raised by the Environment Agency after Glastonbury 2019.’
‘We know that the biggest threat to our waterways – and the wildlife for which they provide a habitat – comes from peeing festivals on the land.
‘This is something we have worked hard to mitigate through several campaigns in recent years with measurable success.
‘Peeing the ground is something we will continue to strongly discourage at future festivals. We also do not condone the use of illegal drugs in Glastonbury.’
In 2020, the festival was canceled due to the coronavirus, and this year it was held as an online-only live-stream event.
However, revelers at the site have been allowed to return for the Glastonbury Festival 2022, to be held from 22 to 26 June.
Both the study authors and festival organizers are now urging people to use proper toilets.
Pictured, a sign at Glastonbury Festival 2019 advising attendees not to urinate on the ground
The researchers also suggest eco-friendly methods for treating human waste, such as constructed treatment wetlands (CTWs).
CTWs are artificially created wetlands specially designed to treat wastewater.
The team said that the festival attendees should be made aware of the harmful effects of public urination to reduce pollution of natural resources.
Study author Dr Christian Dunn at Bangor University said, ‘Our main concern is the environmental impact.
‘This study identifies that drugs are being released at levels high enough to disrupt the life cycle of the European eel, potentially eroding conservation efforts to protect this endangered species.
‘Education is necessary for environmental issues, like making people aware of the problems of plastic pollution.
‘Glastonbury has put in a lot of effort to be plastic free, [but] We also need to raise awareness of pharmaceutical and pharmaceutical waste – a hidden, worrisome understated but potentially destructive pollutant.
Cocaine and ketamine in fish in rural British waterways: a 2019 study
Fish in British waterways contain cocaine, ketamine, methamphetamine, insecticides and pharmaceutical drugs, a 2019 study showed.
Scientists at King’s College, working with the University of Suffolk, collected water samples at 15 sites in five rivers around Suffolk.
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