07/10/11 — Officials find 16th meth site; cleanup costs still a question

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Officials find 16th meth site; cleanup costs still a question

By Gary Popp
Published in News on July 10, 2011 1:50 AM

Wayne County officials recently responded to the 16th methamphetamine cleanup site this year, one more than all meth clean up sites authorities responded to in the county last year.

A fire extinguisher, adapted to store anhydrous ammonia, a hazardous substance used in the production methamphetamine, was found lying on the lawn of a home in the 200 block of 581 North, Capt. Richard Lewis of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office said.

Eastern Environmental Management, a hazardous material clean up contractor based in Rocky Mount, was called in to process the site June 21.

The primary residents of the home where the altered fire extinguisher was found are not suspects, Lewis said.

Lewis said the fire extinguisher was not a complete lab, that additional components are needed to produce the highly addictive drug.

How the fire extinguisher ended up on the lawn is currently under investigation, Lewis said.

He said there is a new trend of cooking smaller batches of methamphetamine, which can be created using the "shake and bake" method that allows meth to be created in a single container, such as a two-liter bottle.

Lewis added that the popularity of smaller labs is partly due to the decreased availability of pseudoephedrine, an over-the-counter drug used in methamphetamine manufacturing.

Large quantities of pseudoephedrine have become more difficult to obtain as authorities now monitor and limit consumer purchasing.

The funds to pay contractors to clean up the site were provided by federal, and then briefly state agencies, until several months ago. The cost of cleanups is now on the shoulders of county officials.

Wayne County officials have previously remarked on the difficulty of finding the funds to cover the costs of paying for cleanups that average $3,000 per site.

The popularization of small-scale production methods could result in a lower average cleanup cost. The recent methods also appear to be resulting in a higher frequency of meth sites to process.

Officials with Wayne County Office of Emergency Services said the cost of the June 21 clean has not been determined.