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Marijuana compound mysteriously appears in Colo. town's water

Unlike most of the state of Colorado, the town of Hugo doesn't allow the cultivation or sale of marijuana, leaving authorities with big questions about how the water became tainted with THC.

Residents of Hugo, Colo., have been warned not to drink their tap water after some field testing found evidence of THC, the active chemical in marijuana, in the water supply.

A tiny town of less than one thousand people, 100 miles outside of Denver, Hugo does not allow marijuana cultivation or retail sale, unlike many other areas throughout the state.

The THC was first detected by a drug testing company. Testers assumed that the tap water would test negative for THC, but at least one field test has shown THC to be present. The police say, however, that other field tests have been negative.

THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is the ingredient in marijuana associated with the drug's euphoric high. There have not been any reports of illness associated with the tainted water.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation are both assisting with the investigation, says Hugo sherrif’s Capt. Michael Yowell. Captain Yowell told the Associated Press that while THC was found in at least one of the town’s five wells, officials are not yet ready to conclude that any deliberate tampering took place.

Yowell told The Denver Post that signs of forced entry at that well, called well number one, are not conclusive. “I wouldn’t be doing my job for my community if we just wrote this off," he said. 

Yet although Hugo residents may well be concerned about the presence of THC in their tap water, the chemical is unlikely to cause lasting health effects. The harm that THC-laced water could harm drinkers would depend on the amount and concentration of THC present, according to Mark Salley of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Residents have been warned not to drink, bathe in, or cook with the town’s tap water while the investigation is under way.

Despite Hugo’s decision to not allow marijuana growth or retail in its town, Mayor Tom Lee told the Denver Post that there was little angst in the town about the choice, baffling him further as to why anybody would want to taint the water supply.

One marijuana testing facility owner, Peter Perrone of Gobi Analytical, told the Denver Post that THC is not soluble in water, heightening the mystery.

“The one thing that bothers me about this story from a scientific perspective is that THC is so insoluble in water,” former EPA scientist Joseph Evans agreed, telling the Denver Post that “I can’t imagine, I can’t even fathom the idea that THC would be in water at any type of solubility to create any kind of health hazard.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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