The remnants of a methamphetamine lab discarded on a roadside in Nikiski were found in July. Chemicals found on methamphetamine lab equipment are toxic and can cause serious health problems or even death to those exposed to them.
Photo courtesy of Alaska State T
Local law enforcers discovered a methamphetamine lab just outside Soldotna off of Gas Well Road on Wednesday, thanks to a new state law requiring pharmacies to keep customer logs for pseudoephedrine product purchases.
The lab was found in a trailer on Harvey Street, where Alaska State Troopers say Lisa Samson, 36, has been living with her boyfriend, Garry Archey, 42.
Had it not been for a law that requires customers to present identification and sign a pharmacy log when purchasing products containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient needed to make methamphetamine, investigators might not have discovered the lab, said Sonny Sabala, a sergeant with troopers.
Methamphetamine labs are rarely reported and normally only discovered when law enforcement officers stumble upon them.
In this case, however, there was no stumbling. Using the logs provided by the new law, local law enforcement officers sniffed their way directly to the lab on Harvey Street.
The case first came to light in early August, when Soldotna officer Sharon McKim visited local pharmacies to check logs identifying customers who have purchased products containing pseudoephedrine, such as cold and allergy medicines.
“In the course of that, she noted a name kept popping up on the logs, and that was Lisa Samson,” Sabala said.
According to a troopers press release, Samson had purchased numerous boxes of Sudafed from various pharmacies in Soldotna and Kenai.
When a search warrant was served on the residence Wednesday, enforcement officers discovered chemicals and equipment used to make methamphetamine inside the trailer and in a bag hidden outside the trailer.
The lab was a typical methamphetamine mobile lab compact, largely packed away and ready to move at a moment’s notice.
“A meth lab can be in a cardboard box in the back of somebody’s car,” Sabala said. “It’s really easy to move around. Just about every lab we’ve been to they’ve had it packed up and ready to go. And they only take the components out when they’re cooking.”
Based on the amount of methamphetamine oil found at the Harvey Street lab, Sabala said the lab had what was needed to produce roughly a half ounce to an ounce of methamphetamine.
Because most of the chemicals needed to produce methamphetamine can be found in household products and over-the-counter medicines, it is easy to make. But the liquid and chemical cocktails methamphetamine cooks create are toxic, creating a health hazard to anyone exposed to lab equipment or a location where a lab has been used.
When they are through with the chemicals and lab equipment, there’s no telling where a methamphetamine cook might discard them.
“They really don’t care where they dump it,” Sabala said.
Labs are sometimes found discarded in the woods where they may contaminate people who stumble across them, he said.
“Someone unsuspecting could walk up wondering what it is and get some residual gas that could cause them serious health problems and/or something fatal. It’s just bad news all around.”
Due to recent laws and increased awareness about methamphetamine, however, Sabala said he thinks the number of meth labs may be going down as dealers turn to importing the drug, instead.
“People are cracking down on it,” he said. “The public’s finally become aware of the problem.”
Several telltale signs that indicate someone may be cooking methamphetamine include piles of matchbooks, large quantities of Drano and gas cans with small tubing taped to where one would usually find a gas can neck.
Samson has been arrested on an unrelated outstanding warrant and Archey has been arrested on a probation violation warrant. Numerous charges against both individuals for misconduct involving a controlled substance are being forwarded to the district attorney’s office.
Investigators dismantled the lab and a Hazmat cleanup team from Anchorage cleaned and disposed of the hazardous waste. Kenai police, Soldotna police and troopers coordinated in discovering and dismantling the lab.
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