CLEVELAND, Ohio — In an attempt to cut the costs of meth lab cleanups, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said today that the state is placing five hazardous material containers across the Ohio where officers can dump the toxic chemicals used to make the drug.
“This is going to save departments across the state a lot of money,” said Hylton Baker, the retired leader of the Summit County drug unit.
DeWine’s announcement comes as authorities have seized a record number of methamphetamine labs in Ohio this year, 770; that’s a 27 percent jump over last year’s 607 labs found.
Methamphetamine’s scourge has grown dramatically in Ohio this year. Officials announced today that they are making it easier for law enforcement to dispose of the growing number of meth labs
Five years ago, police reported finding 112. The Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation tracks meth lab seizures by federal fiscal year, meaning from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. Authorities say a quick-making chemical brew, known as one-pot cooking, is to blame for the spike in numbers.
But once officers found the chemicals, their governments often were stuck with the costs of having a contractor clean and transport the chemicals, as well as get rid of them. The costs could reach as much as $,2,500, according to estimates.
Today, Baker said, trained officers can simply box the items from the labs and take them to the hazardous material containers, which are on law enforcement property. The containers will be in Ottawa, Columbus, Lebanon, North Canton and Athens.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will hire a contractor to empty the containers on a regular basis, according to DeWine’s office. That’s opposed to a contractor cleaning every lab that is seized.
For years, the number of meth labs in the state fluctuated. It reached 444 in 2005. Then, in about 2007, Ohio began cracking down on the amounts of cold medication pseudoephedrine that can be purchased at stores and pharmacies. Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in cooking the drug. Once the state tightened its grip on the way the drug was sold, the number of seizures appeared to slow.
But that didn’t last long, as meth cookers often recruited several different people to buy boxes of the drug from several different places, law enforcement officials said. In recent years, one-pot cooking developed to allow dealers to make meth in cars and out of the back of trucks.
The brew, using the cold medicine pseudoephedrine and other household chemicals, takes 15 minutes to a half-hour to mix, as opposed to the old method of several hours. The brew is mixed in 2-liter pop bottles, and it often is called “the shake-and-bake method.”
Last month, DeWine told The Plain Dealer: “It is easier (for people to make the drug). We used to talk about ‘meth houses,’ or places people would make this. Well, today, you can make it in a pop bottle.”
Once finished, the makers dump the discarded containers and bottles along roadsides and drive off with their product, leaving behind a chemical nightmare. The five units cost $7,000 each, and they were paid for through a grant from the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Office of Criminal Justice Services.
AG unveils Methamphetamine Container Program
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today unveiled five new methamphetamine chemical storage containers that will help cut costs and save time associated with meth lab clean-up.
Attorney General DeWine announced the installation of the units this morning at a news conference at the Canton Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol, where one of the containers is housed.
The units were installed as part of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Authorized Central Storage Container Program and are now regionally located in the following locations:
• Athens Ohio Highway Patrol Post
• Canton Ohio Highway Patrol Post
• Lebanon Ohio Highway Patrol Post
• Columbus Police Impound Lot
• Putnam County Sheriff’s Office
“In a time where very few law enforcement agencies have officers to spare, these containers will help not only save money, but also save the valuable time that officers spend guarding drug cleanup scenes. This will help get them back on the streets faster so that they can investigate their next case,” said Attorney General DeWine.
Law enforcement officers certified in methamphetamine stabilization and disposal procedures will now be able to safely transport chemicals from a meth lab scene to one of the containers. This eliminates the need for officers to guard an incident location, sometimes for several hours, while waiting for a contractor to arrive and remove the waste.
“When the federal funding was eliminated for methamphetamine lab neutralization and clean-up in Ohio – it lead to an opportunity for collaboration and increased efficiency at a dramatically reduced cost,” said Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born.
Contractor expenses, which are paid for by the DEA, range between $1,000 and $2,500 per site, according to agents with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) Clandestine Laboratory Unit. The DEA will now be able to hire contractors to empty the containers of hazardous waste from several labs at one time, instead of hiring them to respond to individual incidents.
BCI agents will manage the use of the containers, which can store up to 220 pounds of chemicals. All of the units are located in secure, monitored areas and will be emptied on a regular basis.
“Even though the chance of an explosion is minimal, we made sure to locate these units in secure locations that are also in areas situated away from the general public,” said DeWine. “All of the chemicals stored in the units will have already been stabilized by law enforcement, and the containers have blast wall protection as an extra precaution.”
So far, Ohio law enforcement agencies have reported 770 meth lab seizures for the fiscal year of October 2012 through September 2013, as compared to 607 labs the previous year, however not all labs required the use of a contractor for clean-up.
Attorney General DeWine attributes the increase in labs to the increased use of the “one-pot” methamphetamine cooking method, which makes it easier and cheaper for an addict to make meth, intensified efforts by law enforcement to uncover meth labs, and increased awareness on identifying labs and lab remnants. BCI agents have taught approximately 110 classes in the past year to workers and volunteer groups who may be in the position to discover a lab.
The disposal containers are expected to be fully available for use by law enforcement within the next few months. So far, BCI has trained approximately 100 officers on operating the units.