JoHanna Bailey runs the tap at her home in Hugo, Colorado on July 22, 2016. Residents in Hugo have been told not to drink the water amid a suspected THC contamination of a well. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

Hugo water: Test results coming soon amid THC worries

Authorities now say conclusive test results on the town of Hugo’s water supply should be completed by Saturday amid a suspected THC contamination of a well.

UPDATE: State tests find no THC in town’s water; health advisory canceled

“We want to know too,” the sheriff’s office said in a tweet announcing that results would not be ready Friday afternoon as hoped.

The town of about 750 on Colorado’s Eastern Plains warned its residents not to drink or cook with its tap water on Thursday because officials said multiple preliminary tests of the water came back positive for THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

Residents were told not even to let their pets drink the water.

Officials initially warned that even bathing in the water was dangerous, but later rescinded that alert.

There have been no reports of illnesses or any symptoms of impairment from drinking the water, officials said at a news conference Thursday evening. Deeper tests, which could be completed Friday, are needed to verify the presence of THC and to determine the level of contamination, if any.

“We are checking to make sure this isn’t because of the field test kit — that it isn’t a false positive,” said Capt. Michael Yowell of Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

But Yowell said there were enough troubling signs for officials to take quick action.

Concerns about the water were first raised by a Hugo company using quick “field tests” to check employees for THC, Yowell said. The simple tests are similar in function to home pregnancy tests in that they can return only two results: positive or negative.

Yowell said Lincoln County officials conducted 10 other field tests, using two different types of test kits, on the town’s water and six came back positive. Authorities later isolated the positive results to a single well — well No. 1, about a mile south of Hugo’s small downtown. When sheriff’s deputies investigated, Yowell said, they found signs of forced entry at the well, though it is unclear when the damage may have occurred.

Agents from the FBI and Colorado Bureau of Investigation are participating in the probe.

THC in the town's water supply
The Loaf N Jug convenience store in Hugo didn’t stock coffee on July 22, 2016 after officials found THC in the town’s water supply. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is conducting tests on the water. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

Distribution of water began in the town on Friday morning, residents could get water at the Hugo Town Hall. The city was handing out water bottles and allowing residents to fill containers.

“Please take care of each other and let (neighbors) know water is available,” Lincoln County Public Health posted on its Facebook page.

Some have cast doubt on the dangers of THC-contaminated water or whether it’s even possible to spike tap water with marijuana.

“It would take more product than any of us could afford to contaminate a city water supply to the extent that people would suffer any effects,” Dr. John Fox, Lincoln County’s health officer, said in a statement.

Peter Perrone, who owns Wheat Ridge cannabis testing facility Gobi Analytical, said cannabinoids such as THC or CBD “are in no way soluble in water.”

“There is zero possibility that there’s anything like THC in the Hugo water,” Perrone said.

THC in the towns water supply
Hugo resident Sam Stalford gets ready to get into his truck to go pick up bottled water July 22, 2016 after officials found THC in the town’s water supply. CBI is testing the water for Lincoln County. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

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