Anonymous tip leads to meth bust

Posted: Sunday, April 20, 2003

Officers from the Kenai and Soldotna police departments, Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit spent Saturday afternoon dismantling a methamphetamine lab in a residential Kenai neighborhood.

Officers wearing full-body protective jumpsuits and protective masks brought a bevy of harmful chemicals and household items used to produce methamphetamine -- including acetone, glass bottles, rubber hoses, camping fuel, muriatic acid, a couple hundred books of matches and at least 50 empty Sudafed packets -- out of the house at 712 Cypress Drive in the Woodland Subdivision.

According to Soldotna Police Officer John Whitehead, Kenai police received an anonymous tip Friday night that someone was cooking methamphetamine at the home. Acting on the tip, officers responded to the residence.

Upon arrival, Whitehead said officers found a woman inside who allegedly admitted to the drug operation and allowed officers to search the home, where the drug lab was discovered. Whitehead said the lab was fairly typical in size, capable of producing roughly 6 to 8 grams of methamphetamine in one 2- to 4-hour "cook."

"This is what we typically see here," White-head said.

He said the presence of any one of the chemicals found isn't illegal, but when the ingredients needed for manufacturing methamphetamine are present together, that's when there's a problem, because many of the chemicals used are highly flammable and toxic, and the process of extracting ephedrine -- the main ingredient in the finished drug product -- produces dangerous chemical byproducts.

"Phosphate gas is extremely toxic," Whitehead said. "Two parts per million can kill."

Making the labs even more dangerous, he said, is the fact that drug manufacturers often produce large quantities of toxic materials, then discard them wherever is convenient.

"The big problem is someone rents a home or even a motel room to do a cook that lasts two to four hours, then they leave," he said. "The walls can then become saturated with hazardous chemicals."

Whitehead noted that children were believed to be living at the home, although it was unclear if any were present when officers arrived.

Whitehead said the presence of meth labs on the peninsula is nothing new. He said the ingredients needed to produce a lab of the size found Saturday could cost as little as $20. From that, 6 to 8 grams of drugs -- worth about $100 to $125 on the street -- can be produced.

"The profit that can be made from this is pretty high," he said.

Police said Saturday that no arrests had yet been made in the case, and referred questions to the Kenai District Attorney's office.

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