Glastonbury: Traces of drugs from urination at the site could harm rare eels | Glastonbury Festival

Scientists have found what they called environmentally harmful levels of illegal drugs in the river it runs through. Glastonbury Festival due to public urination on the site.

The researchers measured the levels of illegal drugs in the river before, during and after the last Glastonbury Festival, in 2019, comparing the levels upstream and downstream of the event.

After the 2019 festival, drug levels in the Whitelake River were high enough to harm aquatic wildlife, including a rare population of eels. according to the report.

It found that the amount of MDMA was 104 times higher downstream than upstream in the weeks after the festival, rising to levels that could damage the life cycle of the European eel, a protected species. Cocaine concentration was 40 times higher downstream, although cocaine levels were not considered harmful to aquatic life.

Previous investigation has shown that traces of cocaine in rivers can cause eels to become hyperactive and experience muscle wasting, deteriorated gills, and hormonal changes.

European eel
The protected European eel (Anguilla anguilla). Photograph: imageBROKER / Alamy

Dan Aberg from Bangor University College of Natural Sciences said: “Illicit drug contamination from public urination occurs at all music festivals. Unfortunately, the proximity of the Glastonbury festival to a river means that the drugs released by festival goers have little time to break down into the soil before entering the fragile freshwater ecosystem.

A spokesperson for the Glastonbury festival said that protecting the streams and wildlife was “of the utmost importance” to the festival and that they would be happy to work with researchers to understand their findings and recommendations.

“We have a rigorous and successful waterway sampling regime during each festival, as agreed with the Environment Agency. The Environment Agency did not raise concerns after Glastonbury 2019. “

Prior to that year’s festival, Glastonbury organizers launched a campaign, Don’t Pee on the Land, to raise awareness of the environmental damage caused by public urination at Worthy Farm.

Public information poster
“ Please just pee in the hundreds of toilets and urinals on site, ” Glastonbury organizers tweeted in 2019 as part of the festival’s anti-public urination campaign. Photograph: Glastonbury Festival / PA

“Peeing on the dirt in Glastonbury causes water table contamination, which can affect local wildlife and fish,” they tweeted in June 2019. “The Environment Agency has the power to shut down the site if there is too much pollution. Please just pee in the hundreds of toilets and urinals on site. “

In response to the new research, the Glastonbury spokesperson described urination in public as “the greatest threat to our waterways and the wildlife for which they provide a habitat.”

They said the Don’t Pee on the Land campaign had had “measurable success” and that they would continue to discourage the practice. “We also do not tolerate the use of illegal drugs in Glastonbury,” they added.

The researchers monitored a nearby river, Redlake, that does not cross the festival site. It did not experience “significant changes in the levels of illicit drugs, further confirming that the drug release probably depended on the festival site.”

They suggested other possible mitigation measures, such as constructed treatment wetlands, also known as reed beds, which use natural functions, vegetation, soil, and living organisms to provide additional wastewater treatment.

Dr Christian Dunn of Bangor University called drug and pharmaceutical waste “a hidden pollutant, worryingly little studied but potentially devastating.”

The Glastonbury festival has not been able to take place since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week it was put on sale accommodation packages for motorhomes, teepees and pre-assembled tents by 2022, suggesting a more hopeful outlook for next year’s festival.

In May, the organizers held a live broadcast, Live From Worthy Farm, with performances by artists such as Wolf Alice, Michael Kiwanuka and Coldplay.

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