News Feature | January 30, 2019

Cocaine In Wastewater Affecting London's Wild Eels

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

As one of the most bizarre consequences from stormwater overflow you’ll ever see, cocaine residue in the River Thames has been making eels hyperactive.

“A team of scientists at [King’s College London] studied wastewater that’s entering into the river from nearby sewers during storms and found traces of the drug within 24 hours of the overflow,” according to Fox News. “Compared to other major cities, the level of cocaine entering London’s water system — likely through users’ urine — is much higher.”

Stormwater overflow occurs when major storms overwhelm treatment plants and wastewater flows directly into source bodies before it has the chance to be treated. In the case of London’s eels, increased caffeine, cocaine, and benzoylecgonine were all found to make their way into the river before wastewater plants could remove them.

Concern for the eels’ behavior stems from a 2018 study that found eels exposed to cocaine could have trouble mating, among other issues.

In addition to better stormwater overflow protection measures to prevent the issue, London’s residents should consider what they send into their wastewater. A local conservationist, Mike Waller, noted that any foreign constituents that make their way into source water could have adverse effects for wildlife and that consumers should take the first step in protecting their natural surroundings.

“Mr. Waller has urged people to consider how they dispose of items, including non-illegal drugs, as even things such as painkillers can cause problems,” the Evening Standard reported. “Items put down the toilet ‘can go far and wide’ and create issues for all wildlife, he said.”

Since the issue of stormwater overflow may not be solved for some time, it may be up to London’s residents to keep their cocaine residue away from local eels.

To read more about how wastewater operations handle stormwater overflow visit Water Online’s Stormwater Management Solutions Center.