Reporters present at a media event, at which Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced trained law enforcement officials will start using specially constructed chemical storage containers to contain methamphetamine lab bust leftovers off site at central storage areas, didn't ask if DeWine was a fan of the wildly popular AMC crime series "Breaking Bad."
For TV watchers not familiar with "Breaking Bad," the 5-season series was created by Vince Gilligan, who spent several years writing the Fox series The X-Files. The series can be summed up as a contemporary narrative in which Walter White, the Mr. Chips protagonist high school chemistry teacher, breaks bad into a Scarface meth maker kingpin. The simple idea behind the series, Gilligan said, was to put a meth lab in the back of an RV and drive around the country "cooking meth and making money."
Watch the E/I slideshow
Odds are that DeWine, a Catholic who was Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum's biggest cheerleader in Ohio last year, isn't a fan. But the small but fierce attorney general, a former U.S. Senator who won his Ohio seat in 2010 and hopes to win it again next year, isn't about to let "Heisenberg" get the upper hand on his watch.
According to information supplied by DeWine's office, Ohio law enforcement agencies have reported 770 meth lab seizures so far for the fiscal year of October 2012 through September 2013. This figure is compared to 607 labs the previous year, however the AG's office said not all labs required the use of a contractor for clean-up.
The five new meth chemical storage containers—cost about $7,000 each—will help cut costs and save time associated with meth lab clean-up, DeWine said at a news conference at the Canton Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol, where one of the containers is housed.
The units were installed as part of the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Authorized Central Storage Container Program and are now regionally located in the following locations:
• Athens Ohio Highway Patrol Post
• Canton Ohio Highway Patrol Post
• Lebanon Ohio Highway Patrol Post
• Columbus Police Impound Lot
• Putnam County Sheriff's Office
"In a time where very few law enforcement agencies have officers to spare, these containers will help not only save money, but also save the valuable time that officers spend guarding drug cleanup scenes. This will help get them back on the streets faster so that they can investigate their next case," said Attorney General DeWine.
Law enforcement officers certified in methamphetamine stabilization and disposal procedures will now be able to safely transport chemicals from a meth lab scene to one of the containers. Doing so eliminates the need for officers to guard an incident location, sometimes for several hours, while waiting for a contractor to arrive and remove the waste.
"When the federal funding was eliminated for methamphetamine lab neutralization and clean-up in Ohio – it lead to an opportunity for collaboration and increased efficiency at a dramatically reduced cost,” said Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born.
Contractor expenses, which are paid for by the DEA, range between $1,000 and $2,500 per site, according to agents with the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) Clandestine Laboratory Unit. The DEA will now be able to hire contractors to empty the containers of hazardous waste from several labs at one time, instead of hiring them to respond to individual incidents, the AG reported in prepared remarks.
BCI agents will manage the use of the containers, which can store up to 220 pounds of chemicals. All of the units are located in secure, monitored areas and will be emptied on a regular basis.
Watch the E/I slideshow
"Even though the chance of an explosion is minimal, we made sure to locate these units in secure locations that are also in areas situated away from the general public," said DeWine. "All of the chemicals stored in the units will have already been stabilized by law enforcement, and the containers have blast wall protection as an extra precaution."
DeWine attributed the increase in labs to the increased use of the "one-pot" methamphetamine cooking method, which makes it easier and cheaper for an addict to make meth, intensified efforts by law enforcement to uncover meth labs, and increased awareness on identifying labs and lab remnants. BCI agents have taught approximately 110 classes in the past year to workers and volunteer groups who may be in the position to discover a lab.
The disposal containers are expected to be fully available for use by law enforcement within the next few months. So far, BCI has trained approximately 100 officers on operating the units.
The units are paid for through a grant from the Ohio Department of Public Safety's Office of Criminal Justice Services.