HazMat team clears meth sites
By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 22, 2011 1:46 PM
Mount Olive Chief of Police Ralph Schroeder, left, watches from a safe distance as members of a specially trained crew dressed in bio-hazard suits gather the pieces of a meth lab. Police were called to the Thunder Swamp bridge just west of town Monday morning after someone spotted what they thought was the remains of a meth lab. There have been at least five meth-related investigations in and around the Mount Olive area in the last week.
MOUNT OLIVE -- It looked like the kind of trash commonly found along Wayne County roads -- plastic bags and discarded metal cans. But the discarded items found Monday on N.C. 55 West at Thunder Swamp Bridge could have been harmful to anyone coming in contact with them and the meth residue in the bags.
In the last week or so, Mount Olive police have hardly had time to clear one meth site before being called to another, and once evidence of the drug is found, law enforcement officers must remain on site until a cleanup crew can arrive, Maj. Brian Rhodes said.
There have been at least five meth-related investigations in and around the Mount Olive area in the last week, including a routine traffic stop during which police discovered evidence of what was basically a mobile meth lab.
Three people were charged in that case, and earlier this month, two residents of the Beautancus community of Mount Olive in Duplin County were arrested on meth charges by Duplin County deputies.
The debris on N.C. 55 West was found Monday after Mount Olive police received a call about a possible meth dumping ground.
While police were waiting on a specially trained clean-up crew, Wayne County Sheriff's Office deputies where on Grantham School Road investigating another possible meth site.
In two of the recent cases, local police received tips about possible meth activity in the county. Last Friday, police were tipped off to possible meth on Shady Grove Road west of town.
Officers checked the scene, found evidence of meth, and then called deputies who assumed responsibility for the case since it was in the county.
Police were at the Thunder Swamp scene from about 8:30 a.m. Monday morning to about 2 p.m. that afternoon.
"It is time-consuming," Rhodes said. "Once we find it, we cannot leave it. We have to sit right there. That is a safety factor for the public. It could be very hazardous. Some of the chemicals are volatile and can explode. Some of the chemicals are real dangerous."
Using the SBI-approved clean-up company means the town does not have to pay for the cleanup. The cleanup crew members Monday wore bright yellow bio-hazard suits and used masks as they gathered the bags, metal containers and pieces of a meth lab.
It is not uncommon for people who manufacture the drug to dump debris along the roads, Rhodes said.
Rhodes expects that with the approach of warmer weather that more meth labs and dumping areas will be found, in some case by the work crews that clean alongside the roads.
Another reasons for an expected increase in calls is that people are more aware of the drug, or have knowledge of someone making it, Rhodes said.
"Somebody called in (about Thunder Swamp)," he said. "I am not sure if somebody was walking by and saw something, but somebody called in and said we might want to check the creek area.
"I think people are aware (of the drug) and call in about it. People are aware of what is going on or they have seen stuff happen and call in."