Methamphetamine labs are dangerous. When police dismantle them, they have to wear Hazmat suits, and fire department personnel are almost always called to the scene in case a fire breaks out.
So how can citizens distinguish between a standard illegal dumpsite and one that contains evidence of meth manufacturing, and all the dangers that go along with it?
Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith has provided a number of tips for citizens concerned that there may be something more than meets the eye to that trash bag on the side of the road.
He has partnered with the Athens County Major Crimes Unit – which is typically responsible for investigating and dismantling meth labs – to raise awareness of what citizens should look out for and avoid if such a meth dumpsite is found.
“The safety of the Athens County citizens will always be my number-one priority,” Smith said. “I believe that knowledge is power, and I encourage you to share this information with others.”
Illegal dumpsites are a nuisance and blight along county roadways and in natural areas, Smith said. It’s common for citizens to report these to local officials or even clean them up themselves. But suspicious dumpsites should immediately be reported to the Sheriff’s Office and should not be disturbed by untrained people, he said.
“It’s important to understand that many of the ingredients and items used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine are common to our daily lives,” Smith explained. “It’s only when they are taken out of the context of their intended use or altered with the intent of use in illegal activities that they should be viewed as suspicious.”
Suspicious items include plastic bottles with an off-white sludge with dark specks. The bottles may contain fluid or be somewhat dry. There is a high risk of chemical exposure and/or fire with such items, he said.
Plastic bottles with a hose or hoses attached are also a sign of danger. They pose a risk of chemical exposure. Batteries that have been cut open to obtain material for the manufacturing process are another risk. All of these are indicators that a dumpsite may have originated from the manufacturing of meth, Smith said.
“These are some of the most common in our area but are in no way the only indicators,” he said. “At any time that you have a question or doubt about the safety of cleaning up a dumpsite, please call 911.”
Smith provided a series of photo illustrations for the general public to help recognize potentially hazardous meth dumpsites.