A six-month-old Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics meth lab disposal program has saved taxpayers $1.4 million in related costs, an agency spokesman said.
Earlier this week Edmond police and fire units were involved in the response to the discovery of a meth lab at an Arcadia Lake campsite. Nearby campers heard an explosion ignited by meth making materials, officials said.
First responders found three 20-ounce soda bottles discarded near an RV. A method called “shake and bake” is used to make meth in a soda bottle. Cold pills are crushed and mixed with common but noxious household chemicals and shaken in the bottle.
OBN spokesman Mark Woodward described the meth making ingredients generally found at a site. They include starting fluid (ether), paint thinner, acetone, iodine crystals, drain cleaner (sodium hydroxide), battery acid (sulfuric acid), reactive metals (sodium or lithium) and cold tablets containing pseudoephedrine.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration some of the chemicals have independent toxicity; when combined, they can have serious toxic and explosive effects. One pound of meth produced can yield up to five pounds in toxic waste. The DEA estimates the average cost to clean up meth labs is $2,000-$3,000 per lab.
Ancillary costs include property damage, reduced property value, medical costs for innocent bystanders (including children as in a recent Del City RV incident) injured or poisoned by the lab and criminal justice costs associated with arrest and prosecution.
In response, the DEA created a pilot container program. Woodward said it allows trained law enforcement officers to safely package and transport hazardous waste from lab sites to the secured containers.
Woodward said the containers have saved Oklahoma taxpayers an estimated $1.4 million, and could save a total of $3 million during the current calendar year. They have streamlined the process and saved law enforcement man hours by not having to wait on disposal crews to arrive at a scene, Woodward said.
“It’s been a very expensive process,” Woodward said. “These are tax dollars. We are all paying the price for the meth problem.”
In December 2011, in response to a surge in meth lab seizures, the OBN announced that it installed five meth lab disposal containers around the state at Oklahoma City, Tulsa, McAlester, Ponca City and Duncan. Woodward said materials are separated and packaged in 5-gallon, spill-proof buckets that are taken to the containers. He said workers with SET Environmental’s Noble office then can go to the sites and pick up the materials in one trip.
Given the potential harm, Woodward urged Oklahomans to never attempt to dispose of a “shake and bake” type meth lab on their own. At a site, air may contain contaminate particles such as dust. Surfaces of glasses or dishes may have layers or contaminated grime. And furnace air filters and drains may also have contaminants in them.
If you have found such a meth lab, call your local police department, Woodward said. Certified law enforcement officers, including OBN agents, have been trained to dispose of them, he said.
Woodward said the OBN continues to work with lawmakers to combat the meth problem.
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