HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Congress Taking Of Meth Epidemic
Pubdate: Mon, 12 Sep 2005
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2005 The Dallas Morning News
Author: Josh Brown
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Laws Would Limit Cold Medicine Sales, Address Funding, Cleanups

WASHINGTON - Its stench can burn your nose 50 yards away.

Methamphetamine cooks mix together such ingredients as anhydrous ammonia, 
paint thinner and automobile brake cleaner to create the drug that has 
become one of the most prevalent in America.

"It's a smell you won't ever forget," said Botie Hillhouse, a sheriff's 
narcotics investigator in Henderson County in East Texas. He said he 
sometimes discovers meth labs just by driving down the road with his 
windows open.

Now the stench has drifted to Capitol Hill and caught the attention of 
lawmakers, who are proposing legislation that would try to halt the meth 

One effort is aimed at controlling the purchase of over-the-counter cold 
medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, a main meth ingredient. Last month, 
a Texas law went into effect that puts those cold medicines behind the 
counter and requires stores to limit the amount purchased. The 
congressional measure would do the same nationwide.

Other congressional legislation proposed would help address mounting lab 
costs and set standards for cleanups. That kind of legislation would be 
heaven-sent for Henderson County.

Fire Marshall Bobby Calder said his county's biggest challenge is paying 
for the damage the labs leave behind.

"We end up with cylinder after cylinder of anhydrous ammonia," he said. 
"And there's no way to dispose of it unless we can get some big Dallas 
company to come out and charge us thousands of dollars to do it."

For every pound of meth made, at least 5 pounds of hazardous waste are left 
behind. Trying to clean up the seized labs can be an environmental and 
economic nightmare.

Cleaning a lab usually costs around $2,000 but can cost as much as 
$150,000, said Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement 

After a hazardous materials team has removed the chemicals from a lab site, 
it is up to the property owner to ensure that the area is suitable for use. 
Sometimes the only way to do that is to rebuild.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, is backing a measure to create 
national standards for making meth-lab areas habitable.

Last year, at least 395 meth labs and dumping sites were cleaned up in 
Texas at a cost of $825,000, Mr. Payne said. Nationally, about $19 million 
was spent on more than 10,000 meth cleanups.

Congress allocates about $20 million annually for cleanups. The Senate bill 
that cracks down on cold medicine also provides an additional $15 million 
that could be used for cleanups and training. So far, the DEA has trained 
8,600 state and local law enforcement professionals at a cost of at least 
$37.5 million.

The bill also sets aside an additional $5 million to create a rapid 
response team to remove children found in hazardous labs. The DEA estimates 
more than 3,000 children were found in labs last year.

Another Senate proposal, introduced by Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., would 
allow the Treasury Department's Forfeiture Fund to be used by state and 
local authorities to clean up meth labs. Private owners would also benefit 
if they had no prior knowledge of a meth lab on their property.

The White House long has placed marijuana at the top of its drug control 
list because of its widespread use.

Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said the White House needs to rearrange 
its priorities.

"I don't think I've heard of any marijuana gardens blowing up," she said. 
Under fire from critics who said the administration was continuing to 
ignore the meth problem, the White House dispatched three top officials to 
Nashville last month to talk about what they are doing to fight meth.

Drug czar John Walters said his office is backing the legislation to limit 
the purchase of cold medicine. He also announced plans to launch an 
anti-meth ad campaign.

Attorney General Al Gonzales also spoke of meth's impact and the growing 
importance of the fight against the drug, and Health and Human Services 
Secretary Mike Leavitt announced grants for meth abuse treatment.

Larry Naake, executive director of the National Association of Counties, 
said the White House should take an even tougher stance.

"We really didn't see any new initiatives to support any new legislation," 
he said. "There doesn't appear to be any new funding here."

His association released a study last month finding that 60 percent of the 
nation's counties say meth is their largest drug problem.
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