PLATTSBURGH — Authorities raided a second meth lab in two days, arresting two and evacuating several people, including a child, from the premises.
Michael F. Meigs, 35, of Plattsburgh and Francis H. Estes, 20, of Keeseville each face a felony charge for the alleged unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine.
The bust Thursday night at the Meigs residence at 6 First Street in the Town of Plattsburgh followed one Tuesday on Eleanor Way in the City of Plattsburgh. Aaron M. Prim, 35, of Redford, Kristopher M. Peryea, 22, of Saranac and Jamie H. Gaudette, 36, of Plattsburgh face felony and misdemeanor charges in connection with that meth lab.
Plattsburgh City Police Chief Desmond Racicot, whose department was joined by the Adirondack Drug Task Force and State Police on that raid, said even though the two labs are not related, they are part of an ongoing investigation aimed at cracking down on cookers.
“Unfortunately, we have a bunch of known meth users, and while they are not connected in a sense, they do work in conjunction with one another,” he said. “All these people will show each other the process.”
He described the rash of meth labs over the past few years as a “cancerous cell growing in the area.”
Statewide, it’s the same.
“In 2003, we had 73 labs, and we are up to 80 incidences already, and it’s only July,” said Doug Wildermuth, technical sergeant of the State Police Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team. “We have surpassed the highest year on record.”
His arm of the law provides response throughout the state to actual and perceived crime scenes that may be contaminated with nuclear, biological, chemical, flammable or explosive materials, operating within State Police Office of Counter-Terrorism.
“Troopers take this on as an additional duty. It’s not a full-time job,” Wildermuth said.
Officers are required to apply for the position where their credentials are evaluated before they are chosen to attend training
Training begins with a two-week school, which Wildermuth said is first of many, followed by trips around the country to various locations that are anything but vacation destinations.
Members must attend federally sponsored courses specializing in live-chemical agent training, incident response to terrorist bombings and radiological procedures, as well as how to respond to methamphetamine labs.
As Clinton County Emergency Services Director, Eric Day works closely with Contaminated Crime Scene Team members and other agencies during busts of suspected meth labs to help ensure those operatives’ safety, as well as that of members of the public.
“They go in and secure the evidence like the precursor chemicals that actually make the drug. Then they will come in and mitigate the cooking and lab components,” he said.
The Crime Scene Team cleanup process is essential, Day added, to ensure environmental and health concerns are addressed before they posing a threat.
“Those chemicals can kill and damage the biological components of septic tanks when you get residues into the ground. It’s nasty stuff,” he said.
Wildermuth educates emergency responders to be aware of the dangers associated with the chemicals used to manufacture meth.
They are highly flammable, toxic and corrosive, he said.
The multi-family house raided on Eleanor Way was evacuated for the safety of the inhabitants, as were neighboring homes. Firefighters hosed down the meth suspects to cleanse them of any dangerous substances before they were taken to the City Police lockup.
As the number of meth labs grows, Wildermuth said, authorities are finding them in all kinds of places.
“They really can be anywhere. In cars, backpacks, motels, barns or storage units,” he said. “Nowadays, they are more mobile than anything.”
He said it is important that the public is alert and aware of the signs of a possible clandestine lab.
“You don’t know where they are until you are actually in them. When you find them, it is usually after looking for something else,” he said.
He said about 90 percent of labs utilize the popular one-pot method of cooking the drug.
The method is part of a fad that began on the West Coast and eventually found its way east, according to Wildermuth.
“The good news is we were prepared for it,” he said.
Cooks combine anhydrous ammonia, pseudoephedrine tablets, water and lithium in one container, such as an empty soda bottle, causing a chemical reaction that leaves behind a crystalline powder, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Users will usually smoke, snort or inject the drug, causing a rush of dopamine in the brain that leads to a euphoric sensation or a “rush.”
“This method is very dangerous because the people doing it are not well educated on ... these chemicals that you can buy at places like Wal-Mart,” Day said.
Police confirmed that in both incidents this week and another bust on July 13 in Keeseville the suspects were using the one-pot method to manufacture the drug.
Shawn L. Gushlaw, 35, was arrested after an employee at the Villa Motel checking out smoke in a room found items allegedly used for cooking meth. He was charged with third-degree unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine, tampering with physical evidence and second-degree attempted assault, all felonies.
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