Federal funding of meth lab cleanups ends

Larry Douglas of Xtreme Cleaners
Larry Douglas of Xtreme Cleaners

NAPOLEONVILLE, LA (WAFB) - Law enforcement agencies are scrambling to find the money to clean up meth labs.

Federal funds that had been picking up the tab for the last two years ran out on Monday, leaving some top cops with few options.

Larry Douglas is getting suited up to handle some potentially dangerous substances.

He, first, assesses the chemicals then measures their temperatures with a heat sensor.

Douglas is the owner of Xtreme Cleaners. He said knowing that information is critical before using a special mixture to dilute the products commonly used in meth labs.

Once the chemicals are broken down to an inactive material, it is ready for disposal. Douglas warns, what might look like a relatively easy process can actually be quite deadly if not handled properly.

"The chemicals are very involved and if you don't know what you're doing mixing acids with ammonias and such you get different chemicals and temperature ranges and they are highly volatile and can explode very easily," Douglas said.

That is why law enforcement leaders like Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack said they call on outside help when they encounter meth labs.

"In the past, we've contacted state police and DEQ," Waguespack said.

But federal dollars under what's called "COPS Funding", set aside to help law enforcement agencies dismantle and dispose of meth has run out. The cost now falls on the department.

"We're going to try to put the burden on the homeowner, or the perpetrator or suspect. But, again, if the guy's in jail what's the possibility of him being able to pay restitution," Waguespack said.

Cleaning up a meth lab could cost anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000. Waguespack said it is not something his office planned for.

"Something's going to have to be cut. Our budget is $5 Million a year, and really there's very little left at the end of the year," Waguespack explained.

Sheriffs' departments could also have someone on their force trained to handle meth labs. But that can also be costly, and officials said it is a huge liability.

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