Officers in hazardous materials suits went in and out of a house on Park Avenue on Tuesday, collecting boxes of chemicals from a suspected methamphetamine lab.
The house at 2103 Park Avenue near Langhorne Road, which is subdivided into six apartments, was evacuated shortly after 12:30 a.m. and remained cordoned off, along with a block of Park Avenue, for most of the day, said Lt. Danny Mark of the Lynchburg Police Department.
No arrests have been made so far, Marks said.
The investigation into the suspected methamphetamine lab began after paramedics with the Lynchburg Fire Department responded to the house early Tuesday for a medical call, Marks said. While paramedics prepared the patient for transport to the hospital, they noticed suspicious chemicals and notified the police department.
The health issue, Marks said, was not related to the possible methamphetamine lab.
Because of the volatile nature of the manufacturing process of the drug, Marks said the remaining residents in the house were evacuated and the city block was closed to traffic while police, firefighters and members of the Virginia State Police seized evidence from the house.
“It contains chemicals that can be very flammable,” Marks said. “The fire department remains on standby in the event that something happens.”
There was no risk of explosion, he said Tuesday.
This is only the second suspected methamphetamine lab discovered in the city, according to Lynchburg Police Department records. The first was found in February 2007 on Coleman Place off Langhorne Road.
While these types of operations are somewhat rare in Lynchburg, statewide there has been a dramatic increase in the discovery of methamphetamine labs.
Corinne Geller, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, said in July 2005, the state enacted a law that required pseudoephedrine to be placed behind pharmacy counters and required pharmacists to identify buyers to determine if the drug was being sold to the same people repeatedly.
That caused the number of labs discovered in the state to drop to 21 in 2006, from 53 the year before, Geller said. The numbers remained relatively steady until last year, when the number of labs jumped to 107, compared to 28 in 2009.
In the first three months of this year, 37 meth labs have been discovered, with 15 reported in the last two weeks of March.
“As often happens, the drug dealers have figured out a way to get around what state law mandates,” Geller said.
The labs, she said, come in two forms — the kitchen lab, where all the production and cooling of the drug takes place within a structure, and the “shake and bake” lab, which is very portable and can be created using liter bottles.
Geller said the “shake and bake” labs are becoming more common in Virginia, as has methamphetamine imported from Mexico.
“The bottom line is, meth is very volatile,” Geller said. “To manufacture meth takes mixing various chemicals. The clean up can be very dangerous.”
The bill for the cleanup rests with the jurisdiction in charge of the investigation — in this case the city of Lynchburg, Geller said.