Environmentally harmful levels of street drugs turned up in a river that cuts through the site of England’s Glastonbury Music Festival in 2019, a study of the concert by Bangor University researchers found.
The researchers concluded that concert goers’ urine was likely hurting aquatic species in the area around the festival grounds due to the high concentration of illegal drugs in it, the New York Post reports.
MDMA, also known as ecstasy or molly on the streets, is a synthetic stimulant with psychoactive properties. It has been shown to cause neuronal damage in primates. And it can cause cognitive deficits in humans, according to Recovery.org.
Researchers Find Elevated Levels of Illegal Drugs in River After Concert
The River Whitelake runs through the festival site. Bangor researchers gathered samples from it before, during, and after the three-day festival. In 2019, Glastonbury included high-profile entertainers such as The Killers, Janet Jackson, and Miley Cyrus.
The researchers found that MDMA levels were at their highest during the weekend following the festival. So much so, in fact, that the drug residue was dangerous to the aquatic species that live in the river. Among them is an unusual European eel colony, the researchers noted in their study.
MDMA levels were 104 times higher downstream in the weekend following the festival. And cocaine levels were 40 times higher downstream.
The eels are critically endangered. They struggle to mate and reproduce with the cocaine-laced MDMA in their systems. The drug also causes muscle breakdown and other damage to the eels.
Researchers’ Findings Contradict Organizers’ Claims of Public Awareness Campaign Success
In the lead-up to the 2019 festival, Glastonbury organizers launched a “Don’t Pee on the Land” campaign. They said it was designed to raise awareness about the environmental impact of urinating on the land where their festival takes place.
Organizers told The Guardian that their campaign had shown “measurable success.” And they vowed to keep telling attendees to use public toilets. They even declared public urination “the biggest threat to our waterways and the wildlife for which they provide a habitat.”
But scientists from Bangor University said the music festival’s location near the river is causing serious problems.
“Illicit drug contamination from public urination happens at every music festival. 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,” Bangor’s Dan Aberg told The Guardian.
Moreover, Bangor’s Dr. Christian Dunn said drug residue is “a hidden, worryingly understudied yet potentially devastating pollutant.”
Of course, if organizers really care about the environment, one solution is to hold the festival someplace else.
The festival went on hiatus in 2020 and 2021. But organizers say they’re planning a return for 2022.