PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — For more than a decade, Kyle Mitchell has enjoyed walking along the roadsides near his home in the Star City, collecting discarded returnables and taking them to the nearest recycling center.
“It is a great way to make a bit of money and also save the planet at the same time,” the 50-year-old said recently. “I used to do it way back when I was in high school with a group of friends, and sometimes friends still come with me.”
He said this week, however, that he is more cautious now because of the remnants of methamphetamine manufacturing that have been discovered with increasing frequency in discarded bottles along roadsides in various communities, including at least a half dozen in Aroostook County in the last month.
The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency has confirmed in several cases that the bottles contained residuals of the “shake and bake” method of making meth.
Commonly called the “one pot” method, the process uses a single sealed container that is generally flipped upside down to cause the reaction needed to turn several toxic ingredients into meth.
The materials can remain highly toxic and flammable.
Mitchell said Monday that he has never found such a bottle, but because of recent warnings such as those posted on the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, he is “much more aware” when he is working.
“When I was a teenager, I would just go out there with a trash bag,” he said. “Now, I wear a pair of gloves and actually bend down and visually inspect the bottle before I put it in the bag. I make sure it doesn’t have anything sticking out of it or left in the bottom of it.”
Houlton Elementary School Principal Candace Crane said Friday afternoon that she has cautioned her students about picking up bottles alongside roads or in fields because of the dangers the items could possibly present.
“I don’t want any of my kids out there picking up bottles because you just don’t know what is safe,” Crane said.
The principal said she was working with the Houlton Police Department to have an officer come to the school to speak to students about the dangers these bottles present. She also plans to have photos made up so the students know what unsafe bottles may look like.
The school typically organizes a spring cleanup day around this time each year, but Crane said administrators are having second thoughts about hosting the event this year.
“It’s a serious issue that needs to be addressed,” Crane said of the potential dangers these bottles present.
According to Aroostook County Sheriff Darrell Crandall, bottles that were suspected of being used in the “one pot” meth-making method were found so frequently in April that the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office decided to stop posting about news of its discovery on Facebook.
On April 15, a resident of Weston found a couple of suspicious looking plastic bottles in a plastic bag beside the Harris Hill Road. Deputy Reid Clark determined that the items indeed were remnants of the meth-making method.
Three days later, according to Crandall, a caller reported finding a suspicious bottle in the ditch beside the West Ridge Road in Mars Hill, which the sheriff’s office determined to be “methamphetamine-related trash.”
Similarly, meth-making ingredients were identified in bottles found April 20 off McDonald Road in Littleton, April 21 off West Road in Portage, and April 24 in a ditch in Woodland.
Crandall said that the public should be careful handling bottles and if they look disfigured, burned or appear to have something in them, leave them alone and call the sheriff’s office at 800-432-7842.
At the Bangor Redemption and Beverage Center in Bangor, Alberta Surdica, manager of the store, said that all of the employees have been cautioned to be careful about handling bottles that could have been used to make meth.
“We let them know about the dangers of this, probably not even a month ago,” Surdica said. “It has been all over the news. They are well-aware, so they know to be cautious about it when handling the bottles, and they know all of the signs to look for.”
At Parsons Street Redemption Center in Presque Isle, owner Barbara Nardone echoed Surdica’s comments.
“We have all watched the news, so we know that methamphetamine manufacturing can be very dangerous,” she said. “All of our employees are trained on what to look for and what to do just in case a bottle does come in.”