Has the water supply ever been poisoned?

When I was a kid (late 60’s eatly 70’s) my dad would tell me that the hippies could put LSD in the city water supply and make everyone high:eek:

Has anything like that ever actually happened? Has a towns water supply ever been intentionally poisoned or had acid put in it? If so, what, when, and where?
If not, why not? It wouldn’t seem so difficult. It’s not like there are armed guards patroling the local reservoir.

I’m not too sure how strong LSD is, but I do belive that you would need a whole lot of LSD to make any discernable impact of the population, like hundreds of gallons.

I suppose it has happened, but it takes a tremendous amount of poison to actually make a billion or so gallon reservoir dangerous. Even in places that use underground water supplies, it would take a truck load of LSD dumped into the storage tanks to give anyone a buzz.

I’m sure people have tried and gotten caught but the cops kept it out of the press to avoid panic. I mean, nuts will try anything. Look at when razor blades started showing up in Halloween apples and candy started being laced with drugs. Look at the lady, who in an effort to kill her husband, and who did, poisoned Tylenol tablets, placed treated bottles back on various drug store shelves and killed a stranger to make it look like Tylenol was to blame. She single handedly started the safety seal laws, plus a couple of others copied her actions and a few more innocents died.

I’ve known guys and gals who probably would try anything for excitement.

Besides, in most places with great reservoirs behind dams, they let thousands boat, swim and fish in the water, which, you know humans, means they have to later filter out oil, gasoline, urine, fecal material, and all sorts of nasty things people leave behind. After treatment, the same water Johnny-Jim pissed his 6 pack of Bush into later shows up in a couple of thousand homes, safe to drink.

(You people living by such reservoirs didn’t think about that, did you?)

Just to be obnoxious, I’d like to point out that the “old” apples-with-razor-blades trick never really happened. Just a bit of urban folklore. At most, I think there was a single documented occasion…I’ll have to find the cite.

This just in from the Not Really Answering the OP, but Relevant Anyway file:

Do a search on Superfund Site and toxic plume and drinking water or some general combination thereof. Read through some Environmental Assessments or Environmental Impact Statements. If they are written for a project on previously disturbed land, you will generally find a site characterization, and may be shocked to find out what lurks beneath. It wasn’t the Hippies you father should have been afraid of!

Sorry to hijack, but there have actually been very few real cases of “nuts” randomly distributing poisoned or booby-trapped candies. In the few cases of malicious (as opposed to kids pulling pranks in order to get attention) tampering that have been found, it has almost always been the work of someone trying to kill a specific person, but handing poison out to others in order to deflect suspicion. (snopes has more info on this) The woman you mention is an example of this; she wasn’t just a nutcase getting her jollies by killing random anonymous victims, she was trying to cover up the murder of her husband. In fact, she was merely a copycat of one of the few real random nutcases who to this day has never been found (snopes has more info on this as well).



occ’s right. The razor-in-apples story has been “an established bogeyman” for a very long time. It’s interesting that the Tylenol poisonings were mentioned, because after that happened in 1982, there was a streak of tampered halloween goodies as well as tampered non-Halloween things.

Apparently some guy in Minneapolis put needles in Snickers bars this past Halloween, though no one required medical attention. Other than that, documented cases of Halloween tamperings are quite rare and injuries as a result are rarer still.

Do water companies really filter out the stuff. I was under the impression thay they just dumped in clorine. I don’t think they use a pee filter??? Am I wrong?

hey labdude is on to something. There have been mass poisonings caused by water supplies, but they were due to bad filtration and bacteria buildup in the water distribution system. I think there was a case up in Wisconsin or someplace a couple of years ago, they had to shut down the city water supply because it was contaminated and chlorine hadn’t gotten the bugs, lots of people got sick and some were hospitalized. They had to flush the pipes and restart with a whole new water processing system.

I personally don’t drink tap water, our local water is absolutely horrible. I drink bottled, but my teeth started getting cavities from lack of fluoride so I have to drink a little tapwater and also get fluoride treatments. Then I can drink mostly bottled water without getting cavities.

LSD in the water supply? Naw, I would tell your father that he must be pulling your leg. It’s possible, I doubt it would have occured. Yes, water is tested for things like that.

BTW, putting LSD in the city water supply is considered an act of treason & youll be in jail for the rest of your life.
But let me check this, Im pretty sure they said ‘treason’.

Just to claify Chas.E’s remarks, the city was Milwaukee and the “bug” was Cryptosporidium. But I’m sure pkbites knew that already. You can read more about it here

Also, further proof that he might be taking a bit too much of the stuff himself, chlorine changes LSD:

"What would happen if the
Russians put LSD in the water supply of a large American city? A
skillful saboteur could carry enough acid in his coat pocket to turn an
entire metropolis into a loony bin, assuming he found a way to
distribute it equally. In light of this frightening prospect, would
Bercel render a patriotic service by calculating exactly how much LSD
would be required to contaminate the water supply of Los Angeles? Bercel
consented, and that evening he dissolved a tiny amount of acid in a
glass of tap water, only to discover that the chlorine neutralized the
drug. “Don’t worry,” he told his CIA contact, “it won’t work.”

A couple of kids from my hometown who had probably seen one too many action movies tried to pull off the mother of all pranks a couple of years back and pour liquid soap into the town’s water treatment plant.

Needless to say they weren’t very successful…


Are you sure about this? I’d like to believe that the DWP checks my drinking water for acid, but I doubt it.

[math disclaimer]My math is crappy, so someone may have to straighten it out. Sorry.[/math dislaimer]

The threshold dose of LSD is 20 micrograms.

Let’s assume a reservoir of 1,000,000 acre-feet. (I don’t know if that’s a gigantic reservoir or not, but it’s about a quarter the size of Lake Shasta, an artificial reservoir lake in California. And 1000000 is an easy number to work with.) That’s about 1.23 billion cubic meters. (1 acre-foot is 1233.5 cubic meters). That’s 1.23 quadrillion litres.

Say the average person drinks 2 litres a day of the water from this reservoir. We’d need to get at least 10 micrograms in each liter of water to dose this poor civilian (assuming he drinks all his water in one sitting, the thirsty bastard). That comes out to 12.3 kilos of pure LSD we have to dump in the reservoir, the equivalent of about 615 million doses of weak acid.

That can’t be cheap for the would-be pharmaterrorist.

According to Erowid Psychoactive Vaults (www.erowid.org), LSD testing is both expensive and rare, so it would be pretty costly to test our entire water system for LSD.

Here is a link to one nearly event but wether it would ahve worked or not is another matter - the nuts are out there.

and why worry when the environment is just as lethal


The tragedy about this is that much of the blame can be laid at attempts to provide clean water from underground sources which was funded by NGO’s all over the world such as Oxfam. It was done with the best of intention but sadly with terrible results.
There was an event at a place called Camelford in the UK where some chemicals (liquid Aluminium Sulphate? - not quite sure) were wrongly dumped into the public water supply and several hundred people were affected.
There were lots of denials by the South West water company first that it happened then that it was harmful to human health (despite there being virtually no information to hand at the time) and then that they bore any responsability at all.
Last of all it was claimed that there would be no lasting effects but this too has been shown to be untrue.

The amount of stuff that ended up in the water supply was IIRC a large tankerful but even so it has not been claimed to have killed anyone, not immediately anyway.It affected only a relatively small population so I would imagine that to poison a whole city would take a huge amount of a very toxic material. Most of our city reservoirs have holding reservoirs prior to filtration and the large number of dead fish would raise alarm bells somewhere.
Trying to add toxic materials after filtration would not be and easy task as everything after that stage is in pipework.

And as far as “poisoning” goes, you’d best look elsewhere than LSD. A toxic dose of LSD for a human is somewhere between .25mg/kg and 1 mg/kg, which means a 150-pound human would have to ingest at least 17 milligrams of LSD to kill him or her. That’s about, what, 850,000 doses of weak acid or about 340,000 normal doses.

I guess it could happen, but almost certainly not in the context of a public water supply (even before taking into account chlorine destroying the LSD).

You damn right I already knew that.I live in Milwaukee now, where it happened. That shit made me & my family so sick! We’ve been getting bottled water delivered ever since. What pisses me off is, no city officials were fired or forced to resign over that, though a few were shown to clearly be at fault/not doing their job.

I might add to the op that I grew up in West Bend, WI. a very white, very middle class, mid sized city, where many families were of the “Leave it to Beaver” type.(you might have a coffee pot or frying pan that says “West Bend” on it. Yup. That was from my home town) In the late 60’s the “hippies” were public bad guys #1, hence all the weird stories our folks would tell us about them.:rolleyes:

I seem to remember something about a French village largely affected by ergotism after eating contaminated rye bread from the local bakery. The cause is lysergic acid toxins produced by the ergot of rye (similar to the lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD).

I know this happened frequently enough in the Middle Ages to be called St. Anthony’s Fire, and it apparently occurred in Manchester, England in 1928. The French village, was more recent, I think, but I’m not sure when or the name of the village.

… oh yeah, and it wasn’t intentional poisoning either.

LSD is not very expensive to make, the high cost is due to distribution costs, as it doesn’t move very fast and you can be put away for a long time if you get caught with some.

A few years back I could get a book of blotter acid (1000 hits) for $250-$300. You could sell a sheet (100 hits) for $100. If you sold individual hits, it was usually $5 to $10 a hit. The raw materials needed to make it are cheap, a chemist could probably make a million hits for a hundred bucks or so, but how can you move that much?