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Meth labs hit farms, too

Published May 25. 2013 09:02AM

Methamphetamine manufacturing is not only a concern to people who live in towns. Farmers, too, must keep alert, as the chemicals and waste materials from meth manufacturing can harm crops and livestock, and cost tens of thousands of dollars to clean up. Buildings where the materials are stored may have to be torn down, and septic systems may require expensive remediation and disposal by professional teams.

The problem is so pervasive that the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has issued guidelines for farmers.

"Most disturbing is the tendency for lab operators to dump their toxic lab waste on rural properties. Farms and properties in areas of light travel may be prime areas for these items being dumped. It is believed that six to eight pounds of potentially toxic waste results from each pound of meth produced by these illegal labs," the Farm Bureau's website says. To avoid intrusion by meth manufacturers, the Bureau says, farmers should be alert to to the following signs:

- A strong chemical odor, similar to cat urine and soiled baby diapers. If one discovers any strange chemical odor coming from a field, orchard, disused shed or other structure, leave the area and notify law enforcement immediately.

- The presence of older model pickup trucks, vans and rental/moving vans on one's property. Additional signs may include items being kept covered in the vehicle or chemical odors coming from the vehicle. • Boxes or drums with corrosive, flammable, or poison placards. Also, laboratory glassware, discarded "pseudophed" (Sudafed) boxes or other chemical containers.

- Meth lab operators will not dispose of their waste in normal trash collection. Farmers may observe trash bags being removed from rental properties or transported in vehicles.

The Farm Bureau urges farmers to immediately contact local police if they suspect meth activity on their property. Farmers are instructed not to approach the suspects who may be heavily armed or the suspected lab or waste area. Also, farmers should not try to clean up the meth lab area themselves. The chemicals used in meth manufacture are highly volatile and toxic.

The Farm Bureau advises farmers to keep sheds, barns and other outbuildings securely locked. If they use anhydrous ammonia, farmers should keep only the amounts they need for immediate use, place the tanks in well-lit areas; remove the hoses from main valves, and lock the main valve; immediately contact police if they suspect the tank has been tampered with.

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