Law enforcement officials at the forefront of the war on meth in the United States had to make a sudden retreat after they ran out of funds to pay for the cleanups of the toxic waste that is generated by labs.

Police need to find a way to pay for meth lab cleanups.

An AP article details the problems caused for police and sheriff’s departments across the nation by cutbacks from the federal government that helped law enforcement agencies to dispose of seized labs.

The government’s decision to cancel the program took away millions of dollars that were slated for the fight against meth labs.

Cutbacks affect investigative work

Law enforcement agencies often had to cancel special initiatives or assignments such as undercover work, door-to-door investigations and stakeouts to locate operating meth labs.

The AP analysis shows that the number of seized labs has dropped drastically in major meth-producing states.

Without the federal money, states have to find a way to replace the funds or make the cleanups less expensive. Typical cleanups cost $2,500 to $5,000 per lab.

The problem is, meth labs are thriving in the US, with the number of new meth users rising each year and a growing number of shipments coming from Mexico.

What is meth?

Methamphetamine is a psychostimulant of the phenethylamine and amphetamine class of psychoactive drugs. It has high potential for abuse and addiction and in addition to psychological harm, physical harm such as cardiovascular damage, may occur with chronic use or acute overdose.

Short-term exposure to high concentrations of chemical vapors that may exist in methamphetamine laboratories can cause severe health problems or even result in death.

Exposure to these substances can occur from volatile air emissions, spills, fires, and explosions.

Because meth is made using a volatile mix of ingredients such as battery acid, drain cleaner and ammonia, only cleanup crews with specialized training are allowed to handle the materials found in labs.

The waste and debris cannot be dumped in a regular landfill, only in specially approved waste sites.

New cleanup programs needed

The only solution seems to be for the states to implement their own cleanup programs. In states where such programs already exists, local police and deputies are trained to remove meth waste and collect it in designated containers – essentially small metal storage buildings.

The DEA picks up the waste and disposes of it. The system is far less expensive – $500 for a typical cleanup.

Now some states that previously used the COPS money are developing their own container systems, including Michigan and Tennessee, which began its program last month. Arkansas also is looking at a container program.

Source: AP, Wikipedia

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