State to help cover meth-lab cleanup costs

Counties are shouldering the cost of cleaning up clandestine methamphetamine labs for now, but the state is promising some dollar relief starting in January.

The State Bureau of Investigation announced the start of the Clandestine Laboratory Hazardous Waste Storage Container program, which will help take the place of federal and state funding underwriting methamphetamine-lab removals that ran dry in February. The program will train local officers to neutralize the hazardous materials utilized in methamphetamine making, then have SBI agents take the materials to a site where they will be destroyed by a private contractor the federal Drug Enforcement Agency plans to pay. A $197,000 grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission will launch the project, covering start-up costs, training and equipment.

The program is expected to be up and running by Jan. 1.

The SBI has responded to 227 labs in the state so far this year, more than any other nine-month period since 2005. Three of those were discovered in Jackson County, with clean up costs amounting to several thousand dollars, and several have been found in Haywood County as well.

“This program should eliminate any future expense we would have,” Jackson County Manager Chuck Wooten recently told commissioners. “But we have a couple more months of exposure until that grant starts.”

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