The tap water in a small Colorado town has been contaminated with THC, the mind-altering ingredient of marijuana, local authorities have told residents.
Hugo, Colo. — about 100 miles from Denver, in Lincoln County — warned residents not to drink, cook with or bathe in the local water supply.
The Hugo Public Works detected "evidence of THC," the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office told the public. A few hours later the county sheriff said there were "no symptoms" in the town, and tests so far had found "no level of concentration."
Pot is legal in Colorado, but Hugo isn't home to any marijuana growers or sellers. Lincoln County has banned production and retail. It's not clear how any THC might have made its way into the water supply.
Multiple agencies are assessing Hugo's water.
The local hospital hasn't seen any patients reporting any effects from the water, the director of nursing tells NPR.
A spokesman for Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment tells The Associated Press that any effect of THC-laced water would depend on the concentration and amount consumed, but would be unlikely to have any lasting effect.
The Lincoln County Public Health Department posted on Facebook to try to assuage any fears from the public, writing that "it would take more [processed marijuana] than any of us could afford to contaminate a city water supply to the extent that people would suffer any effects."
The county health officer, Dr. John Fox, noted that it was reasonable to avoid drinking or cooking with town water until the test results were returned, but that other uses of the water should be fine.
In general, THC is relatively insoluble in water, which is why marijuana products usually rely on oil or alcohol to extract cannabinoids. (Some researchers have actually looked into ways to improve THC's ability to dissolve in water, to expand its medical uses.)
Several experts told The Denver Post that the town's fears don't stand up to basic chemistry.
"There is zero possibility that there's anything like THC in the Hugo water," the owner of a cannabis testing facility told the paper.
"I can't even fathom the idea" that there could be hazardous levels of THC in the town's water supply, a former EPA scientist told the Post.
As for residents? Hugo's former mayor, Patsie Smith, jokingly told the Denver Post that she "might have to go drink some water" after the town's announcement.
She tells NPR that, seriously, she's got a reverse osmosis water filter on her house and she's not concerned.
Smith also says a friend of hers in town pulled out some home drug testing strips after the news came out.
"She said the water is cleaner than she is," Smith says.