The lab was of a type, described as a mobile “shake-and-bake,” whose dangerous components are commonly discarded in rural areas by illegal drug makers, officials said.
Councilman Travis Crowe was leading the crew of local inmates cleaning the roadside near the intersection of Duke Drive and Education Street, he said. When they found the remains of the lab, including a Gatorade bottle with cat litter or fertilizer in it, batteries and cold medicine, the inmates were able to identify it as a meth lab by the smell, Crowe said.
“It makes me uncomfortable on account of the young kids,” Crowe said, adding this is the fourth such meth lab he’s discovered while picking up trash in the last two years.
Heflin police Chief A.J. Benefield said the find was probably tossed out a car window when the makers were surprised by something.
“It was not assembled; it was all the components,” Benefield said, adding that there was also a small amount of the drug. “It was like they got spooked and disposed of it.”
The department contacted the Calhoun Cleburne Drug Task Force and they disposed of the pieces, Benefield said.
The criminals making methamphetamine have gotten quicker and smarter about the way they process their product, Benefield said. The once four- or five-hour process has been shortened to two and it is being done everywhere, even in the back of a car as it’s traveling, he added.
“The days of having a full blown what they called red phosphorous cook, where you’ve got the beakers and all that, that’s yesteryear,” Benefield said. “These days they call them a shake and bake.”
The makers use items such as batteries, soda bottles, cold medicine or sports drink bottles to make the drug. But they still have to dispose of the used lab, said Capt. Chris Roberson, of the Calhoun Cleburne Drug Task Force.
Police find the used labs tied up in plastic grocery bags and even backpacks and tossed mostly in rural or wooded areas, Roberson said.
“They do it all over both counties,” Roberson said.
In fiscal year 2012, the task force disposed of 160 labs that were dumped in the counties and in fiscal year 2013, there were 209, said Assistant Commander of the task force Randall Sanders.
The remains can be dangerous. They can be contaminated with acid or cause a fire, Roberson said. The fumes can make a person sick or even kill them, and the bottles can blow up if disturbed, he said.
The chemicals from the labs are put in special containers and taken to Jacksonville to the state’s container program, Roberson said. The program, run by the Alabama Department of Public Safety, houses the contaminated meth lab equipment until it is destroyed by a hazardous waste company, Sanders said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.