Music Festivals Introduce Ecstacy and Ketamin into the Water Supply

festival goers photo

Music festivals leave their share of “fun drugs” behind along with other contaminants.

When music festivals come to town, there’s undoubtedly an influx of trash, traffic, and loud music. But the hope is that when the festival goers leave so too will the sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. But new research shows that these huge music festivals are leaving some seriously uncook remnants behind. According to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, massive music festivals could also be introducing dangerous drugs to the water supply.

The study is taking a closer look at how illicit drugs like ecstacy and ketamin get into the water supply because only about half of these contaminants are removed once the water is treated. This means that not only can they impact the water supply, fish could also be contaminated. This study is the first to show that annual music events can pollute, other research has shown spikes in amphetamines in water supplies near universities during exams, for example.

But it should be no surprise when you consider the sheer number of people that attend events like Bonnaroo, Coachella, and Glastonbury. Hundreds of thousands of people hunkering down in one place, many doing similar things. The results show what all these people partying at once can do to the ecosystem.

Our traditional wastewater treatment plants were not designed to remove emerging contaminants (ECs), a large group of compounds that include pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs/controlled substances.

For this particular study, researchers looked at the Spring Scream in Taiwan, a festival that’s known for drug use and wild partying. For the study, 30 EC sites were analyzed in and around the event, which hosted 600,000 festival goers. Surrounding rivers were also sampled. Seasonal variations were observed with the highest concentrations in April and the lowest concentrations in October.

According to The Washington Post:

Daily sampling during the week of Spring Scream found big spikes in drugs like ecstasy, ketamine, and caffeine — exactly the cocktail of “fun” drugs one would expect hoards of young music festival goers to partake in. Meanwhile, more benign drugs — like ibuprofen — were fairly consistent before, during, and after the concerts.

Researchers aren’t sure of the long term implications of these contaminants on waterways, especially since the contaminant onslaught occurs once per year. But we have seen a growing problem with unexpected contaminants like endocrine disruptors and pharmaceuticals getting into our waterways. And because they cannot be filtered out by wastewater treatment facilities, we end up ingesting small quantities over long periods of time. Not to mention the way these contaminants can impact ecosystems and the marine species present.

According to the study, “[t]ogether with our findings, they implied that the problems of drug abuse and addiction during the youth festival, and consequent environmental issue are of concern.”

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Music festival image via Shutterstock