HUDSON FALLS — It was a strange chemical smell emanating Sunday morning from the upstairs apartment at 1 Tidmarsh St. that prompted a neighbor to suspect a resident was making methamphetamine, police said.
The neighbor contacted police, who when allowed into the home by the cooperative residents found evidence on a second-story porch that led them to conclude the suspicion was justified, Hudson Falls Police Chief Randy Diamond said. Officers found containers indicative of crystal methamphetamine production, and minor burns on the porch screen that appeared to be from the part of the process that produces combustion, police said.
The investigation led to the arrest of 28-year-old Nicholas Deyette, the first meth production arrest in Hudson Falls, according to village police.
Deyette told police he had been trying to make the drug for a few months, but was not getting a high when using the product he made.
“He told us it wasn’t working, but I don’t know why you would continue making it if it didn’t work,” Diamond said.
Police did not say how Deyette learned the manufacturing process. It was clear from the signs of combustion on the porch that some sort of chemical reaction had been taking place, Diamond said. That reaction creates a harsh odor, which at least one neighbor noticed and became concerned about, he said.
Local sheriff’s offices are part of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration team that has received training on meth production “labs” and their identification and handling, and Hudson Falls Police tapped that experience Sunday by calling on Washington County sheriff’s Deputy Scott Stark.
Stark called in a State Police team that specializes in safe removal of hazardous chemicals from methamphetamine production, and members of that team removed the materials found on the porch and in garbage cans.
The State Police sergeant who supervises the team, Doug Wildermuth, lives in Warren County and was on scene with his vehicle and equipment in 10 minutes, Diamond said.
Even though police said Deyette’s production setup was a “small operation,” he still produced enough potentially hazardous waste to require the use of 40 five-gallon buckets filled with cement mix and vermiculite to stabilize it for disposal, Diamond said.
Methamphetamine is an illegal stimulant that can be made with chemicals and over-the-counter medications through a complicated process that uses a potentially explosive chemical reaction.
Police believe Deyette was using the legal decongestant pseudoephedrine as part of the manufacturing process. The over-the-counter drug is regulated by the federal government, and Diamond said officers were working to trace the pseudoephedrine Deyette had obtained.
Deyette, who was charged with a felony count of unlawful manufacturing of methamphetamine, lived in the apartment with his girlfriend and two young children. His meth production efforts took place on a three-season porch, so the apartment was not contaminated. The woman and children were allowed to return after the materials were removed, police said.
Police have seen a trickle of methamphetamine making its way to the Glens Falls region.
The Hudson Falls manufacturing operation was the second found in the region in little more than a month. On Oct. 5, three residents of a Greenfield mobile home park were arrested on charges they were making the drug there. Two bigger meth labs were found elsewhere in Washington County over the past five years.
Police to the north, in Clinton and Franklin counties, have seen a big spike in meth production and possession arrests over the past year or so.
Police in the Glens Falls region have not been seeing the tell-tale signs that the drug has established itself among local narcotics users, however.
Officers have not routinely been finding the drug when arresting suspects in other crimes, which is typically the first sign that police see of a drug’s appearance.
“Every once in a while we hear about it, but not very often,” Warren County sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Breen said.
A representative of Conifer Park, which operates a drug treatment center in Glens Falls and others around the region, said Tuesday the company’s staff has not seen much methamphetamine abuse to date. Opiate abuse continues to be the major drug issue in the area, he said.
Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy said rural areas across the country have been hit hardest by the drug, because rural areas provide room to hide clandestine manufacturing operations, and that is a concern in Washington County.
Police have received training on meth, and have been bracing for its impact for years.
“It is our biggest fear,” Murphy said. “The biggest issue is it’s very volatile and dangerous. We’ve been told it’s just a matter of time.”
Deyette was being held Tuesday in Washington County Jail for lack of bail. His girlfriend was not charged because police said she was not aware that he was making meth.