A strange incident has occurred in the small farming town of Hugo this week. Using a very basic THC test, a public works employee found THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) in the water. The town of about 800 residents, located 90 miles southeast of Denver, have been told to not drink, cook or bathe in the tap water. Townspeople have been told to keep the water away from pets and animals. The sheriff’s office posted the following warning on Facebook: “At this time, investigators are assessing the situation with state and federal authorities. Bathroom usage is still safe, but until more information is known to us, out of an abundance of caution, avoid drinking Town of Hugo water.”
The THC Test That Tipped Off Authorities
Capt. Michael Yowell told the Denver Post that a local company had been checking employees for THC using a simple, fast THC test that works a lot like a home pregnancy kit in that it produces only a positive or negative result. Apparently the tests were bringing back inconsistent results, so the company used the test on a vial of tap water, thinking that it would show a negative result. Instead, the test came back positive so the company called the authorities.
Signs of Forced Entry
According to Yowell, Lincoln County officials ran more tests and discovered that the contamination was coming from one specific water well. Upon further investigation, they found that there were signs of forced entry at the entrance, but they have no idea when that might have happened. FBI agents, as well as agents from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and a representative from the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office have all been called in to help with the investigation.
Hugo’s Response to the Incident
No one has reported any illnesses or symptoms of being affected by THC as yet but residents are being asked to report to the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center should any symptoms arise. The well has been sealed and it is being flushed out through the lines. Residents are being asked to avoid the water for at least 48 hours while they clean it out and refill it with fresh water, which is currently being trucked in. There have been screening stations set up for any residents that might be worried in the meantime.
Some people are skeptical about the contamination. Peter Perrone, a chemist who is also the owner of the state-licensed cannabis testing facility, Gobi Analytical, talked to Reuters and said, “It’s virtually impossible to find THC in water in concentrated levels because cannabinoids are not water soluble.” While Colorado allows both recreational and medical marijuana, there are no legal cultivation facilities or dispensaries anywhere in the area. Yowell responded, saying he understands why people are questioning the situation, but he has an obligation to investigate based on the results from the THC test. He said “I wouldn’t be doing my job for my community if we just wrote this off.”
At any rate, fresh water is on its way to the town of Hugo and hopefully some answers will come, once the full investigation is complete.