Special Report: Danger Next Door

Albany Dougherty Drug Unit Commander Major Bill Berry
Albany Dougherty Drug Unit Commander Major Bill Berry

South Georgia drug agents say they are seeing an increase in methamphetamine drug manufacturing in 2012, and they are concerned by the dangers the meth labs pose to everyone.

First responders are being trained to spot indicators that point out a meth lab's presence, but it's something everyone should know.

The lithium from inside a battery reacts with water and sparks ether and starter fluid, all common ingredients in cooking meth.

It's an indicator of the growth of meth labs.  Hospital burn centers say they are seeing more and more people injured this way.

"You see a lot of people burnt or hurt.  Scars up and down their arms, or on their chests.  From where it's flashed on them, or splashed on them even," said Albany Dougherty Drug Unit Commander Major Bill Berry.

More than a half dozen burn center hospitals have closed partly because of seriously injured meth victims who could not pay.

Drug agents make up meth labs at the Albany fire training center for first responders.

"That's what we're trying to do. Show the fire department what we're up against.  So they know when they arrive on the scene what might be going on," said Berry .

Meth cookers pressure out ether cans, and punch holes in the can to use the liquid as a solvent.  They add lye and lithium strips from inside batteries.  Put them all together inside a 2-liter soda bottle and it's the start of shake and bake meth, you can see the reaction stirring inside.

But add even just a little water, and suddenly flames explode from the exothermic reaction.

Watch as firefighters pour water on the mixture, and it looks like it only gets bigger.

"You saw how the flames just spread.  It's so easy to ignite.  It's so easy to rupture the containers and blow up," Berry said.

"We know it's out there, so we have to deal with it at some point in times," said Albany Fire Department Captain Eugene Anderson.

First responders are taught to look for indicators.  Batteries cut in half.  Spray cans with holes in the bottom.  Indicators of a meth lab.

"This is something you need to look at and say maybe I need to call the right people to come check this out," said  ADDU Drug Agent George Camp.

And mobile meth labs are increasing as well.  Imagine that fire inside a vehicle next to you.  And that is just a tiny amount of some of the chemicals used to manufacture meth.  Bigger labs make the potential danger just that much greater.

"One house with 55 gallon drums of chemicals to make big batches.  You're talking about taking out neighborhoods," said  Camp.

So drug agents urge South Georgians to learn and notice those indicators, just like first responders.  And if you suspect a meth lab, report it, because it's a very real danger that could be in your neighborhood, even right next door.

The DEA says the number of methamphetamine lab incidents reported in Georgia has increased 54 percent in the last three years.  The amount of meth seized in Georgia per year has soared 447% since 2008.

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