For the second year in a row, the amount of cocaine consumed in Antwerp has gone down, according to toxicological tests carried out on waste water. The tests are carried out each year at the water treatment station covering the centre of the city, Hoboken and part of Wilrijk, a population of around 13,000. The results reveal the amount of cocaine and other substances released into the water by people in Antwerp, either from body fluids or other means.
In 2018 the level continued its decline from 2017, to 771.8mg per day per 1,000 residents, down from 822mg in 2017 and 994mg in the peak year 2016. That’s substantially higher than Brussels (422.5mg) and Paris (525mg), but also substantially lower than Zurich (856mg), Amsterdam (932.4mg) and Bristol (969.2mg).
The levels of amphetamines in the water remains the highest in Antwerp of all the European cities tested. More surprisingly was the high level of MDMA, known as ecstasy or xtc, found in Antwerp. According to the tests, the levels of MDMA last year shot up from 95.3mh per day per 1,000 residents in 2017 to a massive 1,342mg in 2018. If accurate, that would mean people in Antwerp consumed more ecstasy than the rest of Belgium combined.
The researchers offered a simple explanation. “There are indications that the increase comes from the dumping of xtc pills, and not simply from human use. Just a few dozen pills would be enough,” explained Alexander van Nuijs of the toxicological centre at the university of Antwerp. The likelihood is that a dealer dumped their stock of pills into the water during the period when measurements were being taken, he said.
Meanwhile in Ghent harbour last week, a major shipment of cocaine weighing 1.375 tonnes was found hidden in sports bags aboard a cargo ship carrying fruit juice from Brazil. Police and customs made the discovery partly thanks to information from the Brazilian authorities. The drugs, worth an estimated 75 million euros on the street, have already been destroyed. No arrests have yet been made, and the investigation continues.