You don’t need a study to tell you that people do drugs at festivals, including ecstacy. But an environmental impact study released this week shows that ecstacy, ketamine, and other drugs consumed at festivals are actually contaminating local water supplies.
The finding, published this week in Environmental Science & Technology, initially focused on ‘emerging contaminants’ (ECs) like pharmaceuticals, illicit drugs, and hygiene products, all of which are more difficult for water treatment facilities to filter. The researchers quickly found that large festivals are flooding local waterways with certain contaminants, specifically large amounts of ketamine, MDMA, and caffeine.
Other drugs, like ibuprofin, remained fairly consistent throughout the year, while traces of marijuana were difficult to detect.
The group of researchers chose Kenting in southern Taiwan as their focus, a resort-like community and host location for the Spring Scream pop festival that attracts more than 600,000 people every year. “With respect to the tourist impacts, the most interesting finding was the extraordinary increase (89.1 to 940 ng/L) in the party drug MDMA (ecstacy) during the youth festival,” the report indicated.
“The high weekly mass loads of ECs exhibited discharged towards the aquatic ecosystem corresponded to illicit drugs/controlled substances such as ketamine and MDMA, indicating a high consumption of ecstacy during Spring Scream. “
Because of the relatively short, multi-day span of Spring Scream, the study was even able to isolate the average amount of drugs excreted by each Spring Scream attendee. “Although precise data for the event attendees during the youth festival was not available, we could still estimate the EC contribution per person of the whole youth festival (April 1st to April 7th, 2014) based on the mass inputs and approximate number of attendees.”
“It was suggested that a total of 0.56 mg EC contribution per person was estimated for the youth festival.”
At this stage, the study authors could not predict the longer-term impact of ECs on human drinking water, aquatic life, and vegetation.