Meth lab busts costly to taxpayers

HODGDON, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- On Tuesday NEWS CENTER showed you footage of the state's seventh successful meth lab bust so far this year. The frequency of these meth labs popping up across the state raise several concerns about the safety of our communities, but also the price attached to breaking down these labs.

MDEA Commander Peter Arno said, "Each response is a little bit different, but anywhere typically between $7,000-$10,000. You know we are in a pretty rural area of Aroostook County and some of our agents and staff that we need come out of Central and Southern Maine. So just the response itself is expensive, the agents time, the laboratory costs, the clean up costs. It can run up a pretty stiff bill, pretty quickly."

According to Arno, MDEA is on track to double the amount of meth lab busts compared to last year. If true, this would mean agents will see thirty busts costing roughly $30,000.

"Really we have to deal with them because they present dangers to not only the community but to the people living in the house." explained Arno.

Another hit to the state's wallet came back in 2011 when federal funding to clean up meth labs was cut leaving the burden on the state. Currently, the state's Department of Environmental Protection is present at every raid and once samples are collected for the investigation they are in charge of disposing of the harsh chemicals properly. According to DEP spokesperson Jessamine Logan, each clean up costs anywhere from $700 to $2,000. Normally, the DEP could go after those responsible for reimbursement but Logan said in these situations it is not the case.

MDEA agents, however, agree something needs to be done to crack down on the number of labs even if it carries a hefty pricetag.

"So I don't know what the answer is, I know that we need to do what we can to create a firebreak in the problem to get it and keep it from spreading into the communities...Law enforcement doesn't hold the sole answer to the problem. In the case of drugs, it has to be an equal amount of drug enforcement combined with treatment combined with education. In and of themselves none of those hold the answer, but our best shot is going to be if we all work together."

Along with the costs there are environmental hazards associated with these labs. Once a lab is broken down, the bottles or materials used to cook the drug, usually plastic bottles, are discarded. MDEA agents have found them showing up in redemption centers across the state and state chemists have voiced concern that sometimes the material ends up in our landfills and water supply posing another threat.


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