Governor LePage says more needs to be done to fight drugs in the state of Maine…it’s been one of his top priorities.
He even suggested using the Maine National Guard at one point.
Lawmakers recently approved funding for ten new Drug Enforcement Agents.
In each of the last three years the number of meth labs discovered in Maine has gone up, and it makes people ask why? “I think part of the why the answer to the why is we’ve done all this awareness training with first responders, with police, and EMS folks, so they are more aware now of what to look for say than they were two or three years ago.” According to Maine DEA Commander, Peter Arno, most meth lab discoveries are made by first responders who are responding to something other than a call for a meth lab.
There are a lot of things for them to look for that can be an indicator of meth production.
“It can be as simple as in one bottle” said Brewer Fire Lt. Eric Tourtillotte. “A meth lab can be in a backpack which we’ve seen here in Brewer and we’ve also seen where a meth lab consumed a couple of apartments depends on how big the operation is and how spread out or how they’re trying to hide it. The bigger it is they are trying to hide stuff and hope that people don’t notice.”
A meth lab can be very dangerous, even the small one-pot operations that can be done in something as small as a water bottle. There are harsh, toxic chemicals that have to be mixed, shaken, and regulated at specific intervals. If it’s not done correctly it can result in a fiery explosion.
That means many members of the MDEA response team need to be on hand said Arno. “We could have upwards of 8 agents who respond. We always respond with a chemist from the department of environmental testing and folks from DEP always respond with us because they take custody of some of the contaminants after the lab has been dismantled. So they are pretty labor intensive, they’re costly, and last year with 57 Meth related incidents in the state they distract us quite a bit from some of the other important work that we really need to be doing.”
“For every Meth lab you almost gotta plan on ten thousand dollars to clean it up,” said Governor Paul LePage. “And you gotta put people in there that are at risk for explosions so people could literally get killed by a Meth lab and so that’s the concern, it’s a real safety concerns in addition to contributing to the drug problem and people dying.”
The number of meth related incidents has risen in Maine each of the last three years, to that high water mark of 57 last year. But Bath Salts usage climbed for a couple of years and then dropped off.
It’s not clear if Maine has reached that point with methamphetamine production and usage yet.
“My hope is that like most things they will operate on a bell curve and we are close or hopefully close to the peak and we are going to start to see it go back the other way as we raise awareness as traffickers maybe shift their attention to something else,” said Arno.
“It’s going to take a few years”, said the Governor. “I think we waited too long. I started asking for more DEA agents in March of 2014, March of 2014. The legislature acted in January of 2016, that is a long time, over 400 people died during that period.”