Watch out for meth dumps as 2011 fieldwork begins

Michigan farmers should be wary of the dangers of Methamphetamine dump sites as spring clean-up begins.

As the snow retreats and spring unfolds, farmers are heading out to the fields and clearing out the inevitable trash that has accumulated along the road sides. Unfortunately, this can end up a hazardous job due to the potential for discovering dumpsites related to illegal methamphetamine production. Methamphetamine cookers will use any secluded place to set up a “lab” to make meth, leaving behind a variety of contaminated and toxic, chemicals, cooking equipment and containers. Accidental exposure to the discarded toxic and unstable or explosive chemicals and equipment can cause serious health injuries including burns, skin and eye irritation, nausea, collapsed lungs and nerve damage. In addition, these toxic chemicals can lead to environmental damage due to water and soil contamination.

Det. Lieutenant Anthony Sausedo of the Michigan State Police points out that there were 760 methamphetamine related incidents in Michigan in 2010. These included meth labs, dump sites or the discovery of chemicals or glassware related to meth production. In total there have been 2,692 incidents in 60 counties across Michigan between 2005 and 2010. 

Det. Lieutenant Saucedo suggests that if you discover a meth dump, or suspect you have found one, retreat from the immediate area.  Avoid handling or smelling the suspected items, contact 911 or the nearest local law enforcement agency and maintain a safe distance until help arrives.  You may have stumbled on a meth dumpsite if you find containers or boxes with the following items:

  • Methanol (Heet®)
  • Acetone
  • Propane tanks with blue, discolored or makeshift valves
  • Cold/Allergy tablet packages
  • Lithium batteries
  • Brake Cleaner
  • Camping fuel
  • Stained or crushed cookware
  • Sodium Hydroxide (Red Devil® Lye)
  • Reddish stained coffee filters
  • Ether cans
  • Toluene
  • Plastic hoses
  • Plastic containers with rubber tubing
  • Glassware
  • Tree or plant food spikes (ammonium nitrate or sulfate)

Increasing the potential for unintended injury, meth cookers are moving to a new cooking process. The traditional meth cooking process that requires heat sources, mixing containers and glassware has evolved into a “One Pot Method”. The entire cooking process takes place in a single, closed (usually plastic) container, such as a pop bottle. The one pot method is more dangerous for the cooker due to the potentially explosive nature of the chemicals they are mixing. This production system requires little space--it can be done with no more than a bunch of two liter pop bottles in the trunk of a car.  It is also more dangerous for those stumbling upon the discarded remains. The resulting residues and solutions may seem to sit dormant in the bottle, but are easily reactivated and explosive if disturbed. 

Det. Lieutenant Saucedo and the Michigan State Police Methamphetamine Investigation Team are working with local law enforcement to locate cookers and other meth related activity across Michigan. The signs of meth activity include: evidence of activity, often at night, in secluded areas, signs of tampering with anhydrous ammonia storage, strong chemical odors or suspicious chemical spills.  If any of these signs appear in the area of your farm, contact local law enforcement agency. Advise the dispatcher that you believe that you have identified activity related to methamphetamines (this will allow the responders to be prepared for addressing the dangerous situation) and wait for the responders. You can also call the Michigan Methamphetamine Hotline at 866-METH-TIP.

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