Ohio Launches Program To Make Meth Lab Clean-Up Safer
The state is rolling out a federally-sponsored initiative that gives a shot in the arm to local law enforcement agencies.
It's called the Meth Container Program, running now for the past three months.
The attorney general's office has placed five specialized metal containers around the state.
The goal is to make meth lab cleanup safer and to save time and money for local law enforcement agencies dealing with this growing methamphetamine drug problem.
BCI Agent Dennis Lowe made a special delivery to one of those containers Wednesday, remnants of a meth lab from a bust the night before.
“Generally, I come to this one once a week and inventory the contents," Lowe said.
The chemicals are temporarily stored in the specialized container, located in a secure, monitored site in South Columbus, away from the public.
All the ingredients used in the potentially explosive, drug-making recipe have been stabilized, but the containers have blast wall protection, just in case.
"Unfortunately, we have a meth lab problem here in Ohio and that has forced us to be in a position where we have to do something with that hazardous waste,” Lowe said. “We can't just throw it in a dumpster and have citizens exposed to it."
Data from the last three fiscal years show a steady rise in meth lab busts around the state.
From 375 in 2011, to 607 in 2012, to 881 in 2013, and already 315 since last October.
Chemicals from a recent bust in Lancaster were all neutralized, packaged and transported to the Columbus container.
In the past, this process could typically cost thousands of dollars using contractors per-incident in many local jurisdictions.
Now that cost has dropped to a few hundred dollars.
A big part of the program is education on how to package and transport the chemicals safely to the containers.
"It's absolutely huge," said Sgt. Jared Collins, one of about 50 law enforcement officers from around the state participating in specialized training Wednesday in Columbus.
"Some of the risks are a little mitigated,” Collins added. “It's still a hazardous work environment, but it's going to save time on the scene and time in protective gear."
And give more time to find more meth labs.
"So by officers doing it themselves, we're saving money, we're protecting these officers, and we're helping get rid of these materials," Lowe said.
Lowe says a DEA-approved contractor empties the containers about once a week.
The Ohio Department of Public Safety paid for the five, $7,000 units through a grant.
Two more containers are planned, possibly one for the extreme northeast part of the state, the other for the south.
Ohio is one of ten states participating in this program sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency.