Budget Cuts Threaten Clandestine Lab Clean-Up

With the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) no longer able to pay for states to clean up clandestine labs, state and local law enforcement are forced to rethink how they investigate, raid, and process these hazardous and increasingly mobile sites. The one-pot, or “shake and bake” method of methamphetamine production requires only one sealed container and a mix of dangerous chemicals. They are more commonly found in vehicles, motel rooms, and utility buildings, on roadways and in woodlands than they are in homes.
The DEA does offer a solution in the Authorized Central Storage (ACS), or Container Storage program. Instead of having to call third-party clean-up crews costing anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 per site, law enforcement first responders are trained and equipped to neutralize, package, and transport hazardous materials to a central storage container which can hold up to 220 pounds of chemicals. Agencies now only need to call third-party contractors (during normal business hours) to periodically empty the containers.  

More than 20 percent of states across the country — including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, and Tennessee — have implemented the Container Storage program, saving their departments hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in clean-up costs.  

The DEA purchases and ships containers and related equipment to each host site; establishes standard operating procedures; and trains law enforcement officers who participate in the program.  

Amphomag®, a universal spill neutralizer, is one of the several materials supplied by the DEA as part of the ACS program. Law enforcement agents use Amphomag® to be able to neutralize and transport hazardous substances to an ACS container without the need for assistance from a clean-up contractor.  

Amphomag® is applied as a powder to the contents of one-pot labs and any other unidentified liquids found at the site. As is absorbs, a built-in multi-range pH indicator turns the liquid bright red if it is an acid or bright blue if it is a base. As Amphomag® neutralizes the substance, the color gradually changes to yellow or green. The remaining material is now ready to be safely transported to the designated ACS location.  

To inquire about the Container Storage program for your municipality or state, find the DEA domestic field office nearest you at: www.dea.gov/contact.shtml.  

For more information and to obtain a Letter of Agreement to join the Container Storage program, download the Guidelines for Law Enforcement for the Cleanup of Clandestine Drug Laboratories at: www.dea.gov/resources/img/redbook.pdf.