Colorado Town’s Water Supply Tainted With Active Marijuana Ingredient THC, Sheriff Says

By Sherley Boursiquot
Sherley Boursiquot
Sherley Boursiquot
July 22, 2016 Updated: July 22, 2016

Residents in Hugo, Colorado, are being warned not to drink or cook with the local water supply, after it tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana

“A positive indicator for THC was detected” in test results that should have come up absolute negative, said Captain Michael Yowell of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office at a news conference Thursday. Final lab results are pending. 

Yowell said one of the town’s five main supply wells showed signs of being tampered with, and an investigation in conjunction with the FBI is ongoing. 

“Well number one has been sealed and is not contributing to the current water supply to the town’s people,” Yowell said via Fox 31.

But, he said, water from well number one is already within the water lines, so it will take 48 hours for a total water replenish. The other four wells are clean.

“The situation is being handled very carefully,” Yowell said.

It is safe for Hugo residents to shower, bathe, and wash clothes in the water, but not ingest it, said the Colorado Department of Health.

“As this has been a short-term exposure, we do not expect any permanent, long-term health effects,” the department said.

Residents have been picking up bottles of drinking water since 7 a.m. Friday at the local town hall. 

So far, over 2,500 bottles have been given out, the department announced on Twitter on Friday afternoon.

Hugo is a tiny town of 722 residents about 100 miles southeast of Denver, according to 2013 Census Bureau statistics. Colorado began allowing the sale of recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, 2014.

Yowell said the department had been receiving complaints from some residents about the water, which prompted the tests.

The level of concentration of THC in the water is yet unknown and will be determined by tests being carried out by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Yowell said.

As of July 22, there has not been any reports of illnesses, symptoms, or anyone hospitalized. The local hospital released a statement saying it would take more THC “than any of us could afford” to contaminate a city water supply to the point where people would suffer any effects.

Possible health effects from ingesting THC contaminated drinking water depend on several factors, including how much THC is in the water, how much water a person drinks, and how long the person is drinking the water, the department said.

Worst-case possible effects from short-term ingestion include impaired coordination that could affect the ability to drive, increased anxiety, psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, or delusional beliefs, and temporary impairments in learning ability and short-term memory.

Those with health-related concerns are advised to call Colorado Department of Health at 303-691-4037.


Screenshot of Colorado Department of Health
Screenshot of Colorado Department of Health