Methamphetamine (Meth) Labs
Health and Safety Hazards:
As lawmakers and law enforcement officials intensify their efforts to halt the production and distribution of methamphetamines (Meth) throughout Pennsylvania, farmers and ranchers must keep a careful watch of their farms to prevent others from using their property to set up temporary meth labs or to dump toxic materials resulting from Meth manufacture. Those who produce this illegal methamphetamine want to make it and get rid of materials used in making it in areas where they are least likely to be noticed and get caught. As a result, many illegal methamphetamine labs and Meth dumps tend to be located in remote farming areas. Their presence of any of these on your or a neighboring farm could be deadly.
Meth comes in many forms and can be smoked, snorted, orally ingested, or injected. Immediately after smoking the drug or injecting it intravenously, the user experiences an intense rush or sense of euphoria that may last six to twelve hours. As with similar drugs, users try to maintain the high by binging on the drug.
How Meth may affect farmers:
Chemicals and waste materials from the manufacturing of methamphetamines can cause considerable harm to people, farm animals and the environment. In addition, the cost of cleaning up Meth labs is staggering and usually falls on the shoulders of innocent property owners. Clean-up costs could be $1000 to over $100,000. Some buildings may require demolition depending on severity of chemical contamination. Septic systems if used for disposal may also require costly specialized remediation and disposal by professional teams.
Most disturbing is the tendency for lab operators to dump their toxic lab waste on rural properties. Farms and properties in areas of light travel may be prime areas for these items being dumped. It is believed that six to eight pounds of potentially toxic waste results from each pound of Meth produced by these illegal labs.
Signs of a Meth Lab:
• A strong chemical odor similar to cat urine and soiled baby diapers may be present. If you discover any strange chemical odor coming from a field, orchard, disused shed or other structure, leave the area and notify law enforcement immediately.
• The presence of older model pickup trucks, vans and rental/moving vans on your property. Additional signs may include items being kept covered in the vehicle or chemical odors coming from the vehicle.
• Boxes or drums with corrosive, flammable, or poison placards. Also, laboratory glassware, discarded "pseudophed" boxes or other chemical containers.
• Meth lab operators will not dispose of their waste in normal trash collection. You may observe trash bags being removed from rental properties or transported in vehicles.
What to do if you suspect or find evidence of a Meth lab or Meth waste dump:
- Remain calm -- think clearly.
- Immediately contact your local law enforcement agency.
- Do NOT approach suspects -- They are usually armed and dangerous.
- Do NOT approach the lab or waste area -- Discarded containers, waste and other materials remaining from the
- Meth lab can be highly volatile and toxic. Do no try to clean up the area. The evidence should remain undisturbed until law enforcement arrives.
- Keep a safe distance -- as hazardous materials can ignite, or explode, or the fumes may overcome you.
How can I help keep Meth labs away from my family and property?
- Make sure sheds, barns and other structures have proper locks and security systems
- Users of anhydrous ammonia should:
Keep amounts needed for immediate use.
Place nurse tanks in areas that are well lit.
Remove hoses from main valves and lock main valve.
Contact law enforcement if tampering with tanks is suspected.
- Develop positive communication with your local law enforcement.
Participate in a Farm Watch system or a "good neighbor" policy with people and operations around you. Keep an eye out for suspicious traffic in and around your property, and do the same for your neighbor. Meth manufacturers operate in rural areas to avoid being seen.
IF YOU SUSPECT A METH LAB ON YOUR PROPERTY OR IN YOUR AREA, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CONFRONT THE INDIVIDUALS YOURSELF. LAB OPERATORS ARE OFTEN HEAVILY ARMED, AND MAY REACT VIOLENTLY IF CONFRONTED. CALL LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT, THE STATE POLICE OR COUNTY SHERIFF. LET THEM HANDLE THE SITUATION AND INVESTIGATION.
IF YOU FIND ANY SUSPECTED METH LAB WASTE, DO NOT TOUCH OR GET NEAR ANY OF THE MATERIAL. EVEN SMALL AMOUNTS OF THE WASTE CAN KILL OR SEVERELY INJURE YOU. AGAIN CONTACT LAW ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITIES. THEY KNOW WHAT TO DO, AND MAY ALSO BE ABLE TO FIND AND PRESERVE IMPORTANT EVIDENCE TO HELP ARREST AND PROSECUTE LAB OPERATORS.
Source Information: National Institute of Justice US Drug Enforcement Agency
Additional links on this subject:
National Institute of Justice – Meth abuse, Challenges to law enforcement
Drug Enforcement Agency – Drugs and Terror