Pubdate: Mon, 21 Mar 2011
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2011 Athens Newspapers Inc
Author: Merritt Melancon


Law enforcement agencies across the state are bracing to lose some
U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency funding even as they face what could be a
record-setting year for meth labs busts.

The DEA announced late last month that it no longer will pay to clean
up the houses, cars and sheds where law enforcement officers discover
meth labs, leaving local agencies on the hook for cleanup costs that
can be thousands of dollars.

"The cost of cleaning up these meth labs is now falling on the
shoulders of local police departments and sheriff's offices," said
Mike Ayers, special agent in charge of narcotics investigations for
the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Thomson and Athens offices.
"There's no way that the GBI could pay for that statewide. You're
talking about millions of dollars. So that's going to add an extra
burden on these local communities."

For years, the DEA has paid to remove and dispose of the hazardous,
sometimes explosive, byproducts that are left behind in a raided meth
lab, Ayers said. The cost to safely remove and dispose of the toxic
chemicals used to make meth can run from several hundred to several
thousand dollars depending on the size of the lab, he said.

Federal officials told the GBI that budget constraints have forced the
government to end the cleanup program. The timing could not be worse
for state and local law enforcement agents, who busted almost twice as
many meth labs in 2010 as in 2009.

"We are working trying to come up with a viable plan for how to offset
these costs, but right now we're not there yet," Ayers said. "So if (a
meth lab) is seized in Clarke County right now, Clarke County is
responsible for cleaning that up." 
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