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28th Sep 2021

Dangerous levels of cocaine and MDMA found in Glastonbury river

Danny Jones

Dangerous levels of drugs found in Glastonbury river

How did that get there?

Dangerously high levels of cocaine, MDMA and other substances have been found in the river that runs through Glastonbury Festival, as researchers fear it could significantly harm local wildlife.

As reported in multiple outlets, the amount of drug traces found in the water near the legendary festival site in Somerset are thought to be so high they could affect rare populations of eels further downstream.

Researchers including Dan Aberg, a Masters student at the School of Natural Sciences at Bangor University and Dr Daniel Chaplin from the Centre for Environmental Biotechnology (CEB), have previously measured drug levels in the local water back in 2019, finding that MDMA concentrations quadrupled the week after the festival.

Glastonbury river

Their data suggests that there has been a long-term release of drugs from the site for some time, as well as discovering that there was a dangerous concentration of cocaine known to affect the lifecycle of European eels – a protected species that is currently classified as “critically endangered”.

Aberg went on to state that: “Illicit drug contamination from public urination happens at every music festival”, adding that, “unfortunately, Glastonbury Festival’s close proximity to a river results in any drugs released by festival attendees having little time to degrade in the soil before entering the fragile freshwater ecosystem.”

The team researchers have, of course, urged festival-goers to use the official toilets provided by organisers, in addition to suggesting further studies and possible treatment via environmentally friendly methods such as constructed wetlands.

Dr Christian Dunn, also from Bangor University, said: “Our main concern is the environmental impact […] Education is essential for environmental issues, just as people have been made aware of the problems of plastic pollution, and Glastonbury have made great efforts to become plastic-free, we also need to raise awareness around drug and pharmaceutical waste”.

Coldplay Glastonbury Worthy Farm

A spokesman for Glastonbury issued the following statement: “Protecting our local streams and wildlife is of paramount importance to us at Glastonbury Festival and we have a thorough and successful waterways sampling regime in place during each Festival, as agreed with the Environment Agency.

Despite claiming: “There were no concerns raised by the Environment Agency following Glastonbury 2019”, he went on to admit that: “We are aware that the biggest threat to our waterways – and the wildlife for which they provide a habitat – comes from festivalgoers urinating on the land.”

As well as reiterating that they do not condone illicit drug use or public urination on the land, the festival has expressed a willingness to work with researchers further to understand the data and how they can improve for future events.

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