Glastonbury fish in ecstasy – or are they?

Scientists have found cocaine and MDMA in a river near the festival from public urination – impacting the health and wellbeing of wildlife

The Big Zero report

A river that runs through Glastonbury Festival is contaminated with ecstasy and cocaine, following public urination from high music-lovers.

The wildlife in the river is being harmed say scientists from Bangor University, who have discovered the high levels of illicit drugs there.

They measured the amount of drugs before, during and after the Glastonbury Festival back in 2019 and found that MDMA concentrations quadrupled the week after the event. The cocaine levels in the water have also been found to be impacting the health of European eels, which are a protected species.

Dan Aberg, a Masters student partaking in the study, 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.

“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 scientists have called for more information on the harmful effects of public urination to be given to festival attendees and urged more of them to use the public toilets provided.

Dr Christian Dunn, who led the study, added: “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 – they are hidden yet potentially devastating pollutants.”

A Glastonbury Festival spokesperson commented: “Protecting our local streams and wildlife is of paramount importance to us at Glastonbury Festival and 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. We are aware that the biggest threat to our waterways – and the wildlife for which they provide a habitat – comes from festival-goers urinating on the land.

“This is something we have worked hard to reduce in recent years through a number of campaigns, with measurable success.

“Peeing on the land is something we will continue to strongly discourage at future festivals. We also do not condone the use of illegal drugs at Glastonbury.

“We are keen to see full details of this new research and would be very happy to work with the researchers to understand their results and recommendations.”

If you enjoyed this story you can sign up to our weekly email for Energy Live News – and if you’re interested in hearing more about the journey to net zero by 2050, you can also sign up to the future Net Zero newsletter. 

Latest Podcast