The Times West Virginian

Local News

June 14, 2014

Deputies find active meth lab in Fairmont: PHOTOS

Several taken to hospital for decontamination; arrests expected

FAIRMONT — Residents of a Howard Street house were transported to the hospital for decontamination following a meth lab investigation in Fairmont Friday evening.

Marion County Sheriff Chief Deputy Ralph Wright said the department received an anonymous tip of a possible active meth lab in a residence located on Howard Street in Fairmont, which is a small residential street off Ogden Avenue and near Windmill Park.

Wright said the department followed up on the tip and responded to the location shortly after 5 p.m. He said deputies could smell an odor coming from one of the houses located on the street.

“The officers responded to the location and were able to smell a strange odor, which is consistant with the making of meth,” Wright said.

Officers then got permission to search the residences and discovered an active meth lab. Wright said there were several people were in the residence when the lab was discovered.

Those living near the Howard Street house were asked by law enforcement officers to evacuate their homes. One neighbor was surprised that there was a drug investigation so close to his own home.

“I have four kids in the house and there’s a meth lab next door,” he told reporters.

Those individuals inside the residence were taken to the hospital Friday evening to be decontaminated. Wright said that after everyone who was in the residence was decontaminated and checked, none have suffered serious injuries or developed any health issues related to meth production.

The U.S. Department of Justice states that cooking meth is a relatively simple process, however it is also very dangerous, producing toxic waste and toxic fumes, as well as highly explosive gases.

The toxic fumes produced can cause dizziness, nausea, intoxication, disorientation, lack of coordination, pulmonary edema, serious respiratory problems, severe chemical burns, and damage to internal organs. Inhalation of the gases can also cause shortness of breath, chemical pneumonitis, cough and chest pain.

Young children near production sites are at particular risk of ingesting contaminated food or beverages, which can cause potentially fatal poisoning, internal chemical burns, damage to organ function and harm to neurological and immunologic functioning.

Every pound of meth produced can generate up to five pounds of toxic waste. This can seep into soil and groundwater, polluting the environment, and making farmland and forests unusable until a hazmat team cleans the area. Clean-up can cost $5,000 to $10,000 per site. Waste runoff can cause additional damage.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the most common ingredient in meth is pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, which is commonly found in cold medicine. This is chemically changed into meth using a cooking products, using additional chemicals such as ether, paint thinner, Freon, acetone, drain cleaner and battery acid.

According to the Marion County Central Communications 911 log, a police investigation was toned at 5:11 p.m. on Howard Street. Around 6 p.m., scanner traffic stated that there were possibly five people who needed to be transported to the hospital from that location.

“Charges will be pending once we get everybody safe,” Wright said.

Wright said two individuals will be charged with three felonies.

Wright said other counties assisted in the incident including the Monongalia County Hazardous Incident Response Team and the Triune-Halleck Volunteer Fire Department. The Fairmont Fire Department was also on scene Friday and set up a hazmat station.

Wright said those who assisted from out of county were able to dismantle the meth lab properly.

Reporter Colleen S. Good contributed to this report.

Email Emily Gallagher at egallagher@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.

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