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There are "dangerous" levels of MDMA and cocaine in the river flowing through the Glastonbury festival site because people keep weeing on the ground, scientists have warned.
The drugs make their way into the "fragile ecosystems" when festival-goers pee on the land, with the drugs in their systems having little time to degrade in the soil because of the site's close proximity to the Whitelake River, in Somerset.
The BBC reported that researchers took measurements both upstream and downstream on the site, before, during and after the festival in 2019, finding that MDMA concentrations quadrupled the week after.
This suggested long-term release from the site, according to researchers who now fear the conservation efforts of rare European eels in the area could be hampered as a result of the contaminated water.
Cocaine concentration was 40 times higher downstream, although the levels of cocaine were not considered harmful to aquatic life, the Guardian reported.
A spokesman for Glastonbury Festival told the BBC that organisers are aware that "the biggest threat to our waterways" is festivalgoers urinating on the land.
He said that Glastonbury continues to "successfully strongly discourage" public urination.
But he added that the Environment Agency had not raised any concerns with Glasto chiefs on the matter following the 2019 festival.
"We are keen to see full details of this new research, and would be very happy to work with the researchers," the spokesman said.
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.
"We [also] need to raise awareness around drug and pharmaceutical waste – it is a hidden, worryingly-understudied yet potentially devastating pollutant."
Cocaine traces in rivers can cause eels to become hyperactive and experience muscle wastage, impaired gills and hormonal changes, according to previous research in 2018, published in Science of the Total Environment.
“It is likely that the eels exposed to cocaine have a reduced performance. For example, impaired gills could reduce the breathing ability of the eels; a damaged muscle could reduce their swimming ability," said Anna Capaldo of the University of Naples Federico II and the lead author of the study.
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Glastonbury’s organisers launched a campaign ahead of the 2019 festival, called Don’t Pee on the Land, to raise awareness of the environmental damage caused by public urination on the site at Worthy Farm.
“Peeing on the land at Glastonbury causes pollution of the water table, which can affect local wildlife and fish,” they 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.”
- Glastonbury Festival
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