DOTHAN - Federal budget cuts are leaving a big ticket for local law enforcement agencies to cover.
The hazardous materials associated with meth labs are expensive to remove and dispose.
Meth labs are a hazard to the community because of their ability to explode at any moment. Police enter with very detailed instructions when there is a possible meth lab involved, and upon sighting they back out immediately. Gathering evidence and cleaning and disposal of these labs is precise and expensive.
The average cleanup and disposal cost associated with a meth lab bust runs at about four to five thousand dollars. Before that tab was covered by state and federal funding. That's been chopped, and now it falls on local enforcement.
Haz Mat crews endure an extensive training process to earn certification to clean these sites. The knowledge required involves a thorough understanding of the chemistry and ability to assess what chemical reactions could occur with every move.
"It requires a high level of certification to even be able to go into these,” Corporal Rachel David of the Dothan Police Department said. “So all of those things, the time and the money, they add up, and the cost is quite great on an individual cleanup."
All money aside, Houston County Sheriff Andy Hughes reminds anyone who thinks now is the time to get the lab ready for production, that the monetary issue only concerns operations after a meth bust.
"That doesn't mean we're not going to arrest anybody or shut down a meth lab,” Hughes said. “That just means we may not be able to clean it up. It may eventually fall back on the property owners."
In an economy that is already forcing more thought into every dollar spent, both the Dothan Police Department and the Houston County Sheriff's Office agree that they won't let funding slow down the war on drugs.
A Birmingham-based company holds the state's meth clean-up contract at this time.
It is unknown whether local agencies will continue to use the same company or bid operations to a more local business.