Huge amount of drugs taken at Glastonbury Festival may be harming local wildlife

The levels of MDMA and cocaine found in the river near Glastonbury Festival were so high that it could be harming wildlife, including rare populations of eels

Drugs taken at Glastonbury may be harming local wildlife, scientists claim

Scientists have discovered some of the party people at the Glastonbury Festival take so many drugs they can pollute local rivers.

Researchers claim they have discovered that during the legendary festival, levels of MDMA and cocaine in the water were so high it could be harming wildlife further downstream, including rare populations of eels.

The experts are now urging greenfield festival revellers to use the official toilets provided by organisers, as it is thought the drugs can enter nearby rivers through public urination.

Dan Aberg, a Masters student in the School of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, worked with Dr Daniel Chaplin from the Centre for Environmental Biotechnology (CEB) to measure levels of illicit drugs before, during and after the Glastonbury Festival when it was last held in 2019.

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Festival-goers are now being urged to use the official public toilets


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Samples were taken from the Whitelake River both upstream and downstream of the festival site.

The study found that MDMA concentrations quadrupled the week after the festival, suggesting long-term release from the site.

They also discovered that cocaine concentrations rose to levels known to affect the lifecycle of European eels, a protected species.

Mr Aberg said: “Illicit drug contamination from public urination happens at every music festival.

“The level of release is unknown, but festivals undoubtedly are an annual source of illicit drug release.”

He added: “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 researchers suggest studies should be conducted into possible treatment via environmentally friendly methods, such as constructed treatment wetlands (CTWs), in order to minimise the release and impact of illicit drugs from festivals.

The festival, which takes place at Worthy Farm in Somerset attracts up to 200,000 people each year who camp across the sprawling the site.

But organisers wear their eco-credentials on their sleeves and work hard to make the festival sustainable.

In 2019, the last time the festival was held before the Covid-19 pandemic, they banned the sale of single-use plastic drink bottles across the festival site.

Next year’s festival is already sold out (file photo)



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At the time co-organiser Emily Eavis estimated “the ban will save the million bottles that we would have otherwise sold” and follows the festival’s motto to tread lightly on the land.

Instead, the 200,000 people at the festival were served by 850 water taps and dozens of water kiosks, using Worthy Farm’s purpose-built water reservoirs.

The scientists behind the latest study are now encouraging festival attendees to take the danger of public urination seriously in order to reduce the contamination of natural resources.

Dr Christian Dunn, from 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 lifecycle of the European eel, potentially derailing conservation efforts to protect this endangered species.

“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 – it is a hidden, worryingly-understudied yet potentially devastating pollutant.”

Glastonbury is due to go ahead once again next year from June 22 to 26 and is currently sold out.

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