Drug traces in urine from Glastonbury Festival could harm local wildlife

Scientists have found that MDMA traces in the nearby River Whitelake could harm a protected species of eel

Harmful levels of illegal drug traces have been found in the river that runs through Glastonbury Festival, potentially leading to harming local wildlife.

Before, during and after the festival’s 2019 edition, scientists monitored levels of drugs in the nearby River Whitelake, finding that the level of drugs in the river after the festival was high enough to potentially harm wildlife, including a rare species of eel.

According to the new report, which you can read here, the amount of MDMA found flowing downstream in the river after the 2019 festival was 104 times higher than that going upstream. Traces of cocaine were 40 times higher.

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Discussing the news, researcher Dan Aberg from Bangor University’s School of Natural Sciences told The Guardian: “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.”

Glastonbury Pyramid Stage crowd 2019
Glastonbury Festival 2019. CREDIT: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Responding to the news, a spokesperson for Glastonbury said that protecting local wildlife is of “paramount importance” to the festival, adding: “We have a thorough and successful waterways sampling regime in place during each festival, as agreed with the Environment Agency. There were no concerns raised by the Environment Agency following Glastonbury 2019.”

The spokesperson added that public urination at the festival is “the biggest threat to our waterways and the wildlife for which they provide a habitat”.

A campaign called Don’t Pee On The Land was launched by the festival ahead of its 2019 edition, encouraging festivalgoers to use on-site toilets and urinals to avoid contaminating the land. It came in line with the festival’s long-standing slogan, Love The Farm, Leave No Trace.

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Elsewhere, Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis shared his optimistic outlook on the chances of the festival returning in 2022.

The Worthy Farm event cancelled both its 2020 and 2021 editions due to the continuing effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked last month if he was feeling optimistic about the festival coming back next year, Eavis said: “Oh yeah, absolutely. Psychologically we’re feeling so good and so high at the moment. We’re on a bit of a roll.”

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