Glastonbury Festival-goers cocaine and MDMA urine is harming local fish

People are jumping and screaming at festival
Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, Britain June 30, 2019, photo: Reuters/Henry Nicholls

Cocaine and MDMA residues are endangering wildlife in and around a river near the UK’s Glastonbury music festival site, a team of scientists has found.

study published by Bangor University scientists found that cocaine and MDMA residue levels in the Whitelake River that runs through the Glastonbury festival grounds were so high they could be harming wildlife further downstream, including rare populations of eels. 

Whitelake River samples were taken in 2019 when over 200,000 people attended the Glastonbury music festival. 

The river water samples showed MDMA, also known as ecstasy, concentrations had quadrupled, and cocaine concentration levels were high enough to disrupt the endangered European eels who live in the river.

Euopean eel, photo: Canva

Bangor University’s Christian Dunn, who led the study, said the team were now urging all those who attend outdoor festivals to stop urinating in rivers and to use official bathrooms instead. 

In a news release published this week on the Bangor University webpage, Dunn said the main concern “is the environmental impact” of the illegal drugs being released.

“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,” Dunn said.

“We also need to raise awareness around drug and pharmaceutical waste – they are hidden yet potentially devastating pollutants,” he added. 

Another scientist on the research team, Dan Aberg, said that public urination, which “happens at every music festival” meant that “festivals undoubtedly are an annual source of illicit drug release.”

“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,” Aberg added.

The live Glastonbury 2020 and 2021 festivals were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the festival might return in 2022.

A spokesman for the festival said protecting local streams and wildlife was of big importance to Glastonbury: “Peeing on the land is something we will continue to strongly discourage at future festivals.”


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