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Police warn garbage could include meth labs

Inter-Mountain submitted photo These items were found by the Buckhannon Police Department and are an example of refuse from a mobile methamphetamine lab.
Inter-Mountain submitted photo
These items were found by the Buckhannon Police Department and are an example of refuse from a mobile methamphetamine lab.

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — In the past, no one had to think twice about picking up a discarded soda bottle from the ground and throwing it in the garbage where it belongs.

Now, however, one must ask, “Is that a meth lab?”

According to local law enforcement officials, it’s the unfortunate truth of the times: People are finding refuse from mobile methamphetamine labs discarded along area roadways and in other locations.

Lewis County Sheriff Adam Gissy and others urge caution when picking up trash to ensure people don’t mistakenly expose themselves to chemicals left over from a mobile meth cook.

“Every year, the sheriff’s office receives numerous complaints about suspicious garbage along the roads,” he said. “In many cases, the garbage turns out to be old methamphetamine labs or by-products of the labs.”

Gissy and other law enforcement officials want the public to report any suspicious garbage they find while walking along or cleaning up area roads. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Department can be reached at 304-269-8251. When in doubt, call 911.

“Chemicals are often discarded in plastic soda bottles and are very dangerous. The chemicals are hazardous to your lungs if inhaled (and) are often flammable,” he said.

The idea of manufacturing methamphetime might bring to mind images of Walter White from the hit AMC series “Breaking Bad” cooking crystal meth in a basement laboratory. But the reality is everything needed for a meth lab can fit into a backpack, said Chief Matt Gregory of the Buckhannon Police Department.

“Shake-and-bake” labs often use soda bottles and various other pre-cursor materials, mostly household goods, Gregory said.

“There are certain indicators to look for. Typically, it’s a 20-ounce bottle and it looks like it has a powdery residue in it. That doesn’t always mean it was used for a meth lab, but it’s indicative,” he said. “That’s something to look for. Certainly, if you see that, don’t pick it up. Contact law enforcement.”

Sea salt, camp fuel, hoses and household chemicals may accompany the pop bottles, Gregory said.

“If you find that all together, that’s a big red flag,” he said.

Gregory said finding this type of refuse in Buckhannon has not been a pervasive problem, but it has happened.

“We have had issues throughout the recent past. People have found it in the trash cans along the walking trail and in the field along the river bank,” he said. “It can and does happen, even in smaller communities. Just be wary and look for those types of signs.”

The Buckhannon Police Department has conducted workshops in the past, and will continue to do so, to educate the public on what to look for, Gregory said. Public education is a great tool in helping combat local drug issues, he said.

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