A new study shows that public urination at the famous Glastonbury Festival resulted in illegal drugs entering a river, potentially harming wildlife in the area.
Researchers from Bangor University in Wales identified high quantities of cocaine and MDMA in the Whitelake River, which flows past Worthy Farm, where the annual music festival is usually held with over 200,000 people, according to The Guardian.
According to the report after the 2019 festival, drug levels in the Whitelake River were enough to threaten aquatic animals, particularly a unique eel population.
In the weeks following the festival, the amount of MDMA downstream was 104 times higher than upstream, reaching levels that could disrupt the life cycle of European eels, a protected species. In addition, cocaine concentration was 40 times higher downstream. However, the levels of cocaine were not considered harmful.
Endangered eels exposed to cocaine in poisoned rivers may have difficulty mating and reproducing, resulting in severe injury and muscle breakdown.
Dan Aberg of Bangor University’s School of Natural Sciences said, “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.”
Christian Dunn, a professor of wetland science at Bangor University who led the study, praised the festival’s attempts to resolve the issue of urination. However, he believes further research is needed to determine the consequences of illegal drugs on ecosystems.
“We need to start highlighting the dangers of these drugs to the public and to festival goers and saying, ‘Look, another reason why you should not be peeing on the ground, go and use the loos, go and use the facilities,'” he said according to Mercury News.
Glastonbury organizers began a campaign called ‘Don’t Pee on the Land’ ahead of the 2019 festival to raise awareness of the environmental damage caused by public urination on Worthy farmland.
“Peeing on the land at Glastonbury causes pollution of the water table, which can affect local wildlife and fish,” organizers tweeted in June 2019. “The Environment Agency have the power to close the site if there is too much pollution. Please only pee in the hundreds of toilets and urinals on site.”
They said the ‘Don’t Pee on the Land’ campaign had achieved “measurable success” and that they would continue to discourage the behavior. “We also do not condone the use of illegal drugs at Glastonbury,” they added.