Marijuana industry experts skeptical about THC getting into Hugo water supply

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HUGO, Colo. — There are still more questions than answers in the eastern Plains town of Hugo as residents wonder what caused their water to test positive for THC.

On Thursday, multiple tests of a well near Hugo indicated the presence of THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes a person high, triggering an advisory to residents not to drink the water.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation took over the investigation on Friday and local officials anticipate conclusive testing results on Saturday.

In the meantime, many in the marijuana industry are more than skeptical that THC actually made it into the water supply.

“It’s virtually inconceivable,” said Ian Berringer, with RM3 Labs.

Berringer said he can’t believe THC is in the water because it’s not water soluble.

“It’s really soluble in butter, it’s really soluble in fats, it’s soluble in alcohols, but it’s not soluble at all in water,” Berringer said. “So even if it were to get into the water supply, it’s very hard to see how it would stay in there for any length of time at all.”

Though there are THC-infused drinks for sale in Colorado, Berringer showed off why dumping a drink into water still doesn’t work.

“You’ll see it immediately it gets all cloudy and that’s the THC trying to get back out of the water,” Berringer said. “It creates a sort of film on top which wants to stick to any thing it touches.”

Berringer said it’s most likely that something in the water led to false positive tests. Even if someone found a way to get THC in the water, he said it would be virtually impossible to add enough, or afford enough, to pose any kind of health risk.

“If, somehow, somebody had managed to put THC into the water system, that by time it reached any consumers it would have been so diluted that I can’t see it having any effect at all,” Berringer said.

What led to the testing

A water tanker and crates of bottled water were brought into Hugo on Friday, one day after the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said the town’s water supply was tainted with THC, a main ingredient in marijuana.

About 5,000 bottles of water were being passed out at the Hugo Town Hall on Friday morning to Hugo’s 750 residents as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment ran tests on the water supply.

RELATED: Health department guidelines on Hugo water supply

Residents can still bathe, wash clothing and water lawns until test results come in.

“We still bathed with it so your fine yeah I don’t mean I’m not going without a shower,” Milynne Rasgo laughed.

“Our message is it’s business as usual except ingestion,” a sheriff’s office spokesman said. “No drinking or cooking.”

An investigation into the water supply began after a company testing its water found THC in it, the sheriff’s office said. Field testing kits were used to check the water supply, with six of the 10 samples also testing positive for THC.

Public works officials found one of the well houses associated with the water supply showed signs of tampering, the sheriff’s office said. The public works employees found evidence of “forced entry into the raw water system,” according to a sheriff’s spokesman.

The FBI, Colorado Bureau of Investigation and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office are working together on the investigation. It’s not known how much THC is in the water.

The sheriff’s office said it expects to get conclusive test results early Friday afternoon.

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