Law Enforcement Agencies Foot the Bill for Meth Lab Cleanups

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

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By Jill Kasparie

ANAMOSA, Iowa - Many cities and counties across Eastern Iowa are working out the details in their budgets. As that happens, Law enforcement agencies are working out a costly dilemma.

Because of federal changes, there isn't any money to pay for local meth lab cleanups. That's when a company comes in and disposes of the dangerous chemicals after officers are on the scene.

Meth labs are down since Iowa lawmakers passed a bill limiting the sale of pseudoephedrine, but authorities said they’re still a problem.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, said Iowa had 358 reported labs in 2013.

In Jones County, the cost of cleaning up those labs and disposing of the dangerous chemicals is becoming a reality. A lack of funding has the Anamosa police chief and Jones County Sheriff in a tight spot.

"We kind of all need to come up with a plan of action,” said Jones County Sheriff Greg Graver.

It all started about a year ago when Sheriff Greg Graver learned the DEA wouldn't fund the lab cleanup process any longer. That department distributes funds from a federal grant. The DEA said congress put restrictions on that money in 2012.

"Only states that were part of a container program were eligible for that funding and what a container program is, it allows the state and local law enforcement to be trained to dismantle small labs and store the materials in a container ... That saves the government huge amounts of money,” said DEA Spokesman Rusty Payne.

Police Chief Bob Simonson said he's already used several hundred dollars to pay for one lab.

He said if it's a bigger operation, it could cost thousands. That's tax-payer money.

"There’s going to have to be somewhere in the future where we come up with the monies to pay for this since we are getting dumped with the bill,” said Anamosa Police Chief Bob Simonson.

Sheriff Graver is currently working on contracts with the smaller communities that his office provides law enforcement services for. He's making sure they agree that if a lab happens in their town, they have to pay.

"Part of the reaction was: ‘How much?’ ‘How do we budget for that?’ ‘What do we budget for that?’ and I don't have a good answer because I'm in the same circumstance,” Sheriff Graver said.

The departments said despite the dilemma, they would continue to crack down.

"It's kind of a evil that unfortunately you're faced with, but I think the fight is worth the fight,” Sheriff Graver said.

The state agency that handles issues concerning public safety and narcotics investigations is the Division of Narcotics Enforcement. A spokesman said they are looking into the container program agreement, but he said it takes a lot of resources up front to take part. The DEA said if Iowa comes on board, the state would be eligible to receive the federal grant money again.
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