MDEA finds evidence of meth labs in Houlton

Posted Nov. 16, 2010, at 5:32 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:49 a.m.

HOULTON, Maine — About a dozen agents and a forensic chemist with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency uncovered evidence at three locations here Monday that indicate suspects may have been operating methamphetamine labs, according to the MDEA.

While no one was arrested, MDEA officials are focusing on several suspects and anticipate charges will be filed once the evidence has been analyzed and the investigation is complete, according to a press release issued Tuesday by MDEA division commander Darrell Crandall.

Members of the MDEA’s enforcement team, equipped with air tanks and wearing chemical- and fire-resistant clothing, first converged late Monday afternoon on a wooded area at the end of First Street, according to the release.

As agents gathered and processed evidence, Houlton Fire and Emergency Medical Service personnel stood by on-site to assist with fire suppression and medical needs if they arose, Crandall said in the release.

“We were there because we had reason to believe remnants of a meth lab were stashed in the woods,” he said. “As it turns out, our information was right on.”

The agents brought equipment — including two large MDEA crime scene units, a decontamination trailer, firetrucks and an ambulance — to a house trailer a short distance away on First Street, where a search warrant was executed.

Evidence found inside and outside that trailer “is consistent with what we would expect to find where someone is making methamphetamine,” Crandall said. Agents seized chemicals, solvents and other items typically used in the manufacturing process, according to the release.

The agents then moved to a garage adjacent to a house trailer on the west side of Foxcroft Road to execute a second search warrant, where “we seized enough evidence from this site to pretty clearly show what had been going on there,” Crandall said.

Team members slowed down their processing of evidence on a couple of occasions, Crandall said, in order to deal with containers that were generating and releasing toxic fumes.

“These plastic containers have acid mixed with other items to create a toxic cocktail,” the commander said. “They are used in the final step of the manufacturing process and pose a particularly high risk to responders.”

Agents finished processing evidence at the three sites at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Some of that evidence was taken to the state Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory in Augusta for analysis. Other items were turned over to responders from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for hazardous waste disposal.

The Houlton Police Department, Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department and Maine State Police also contributed personnel to the response.

“This was successful, first and foremost, because no one was injured and also because of the strong, collaborative approach by all involved,” Crandall said.

Anyone with information on the illegal manufacturing or sale of drugs may contact the MDEA at 800-452-6457 or www.maine.gov/dps/mdea.

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