The drug crystal meth is hurting people in many ways, some less obvious than others. Writing in Terrain, an Utne Independent Press Award nominee for environmental coverage, Linnea Due vividly describes the dangers caused by meth cooks who dump their waste in natural sites.
Ninety-five percent of the material used in meth cooking is discarded, contaminating bodies of water when dumped. Much of that material is highly toxic. Not only does the hazardous waste pose a threat to all nearby living things, it’s also extremely dangerous to clean up.
California Hazardous-Materials officer Wayne Briley described one of his many meth-lab cleanup calls inside a California state park, where he found “glass lab mantles floating like big bubbles in the shallows.” Hidden inside the trash, Briley discovered drums of white phosphorous. “It is air-reactive,” he says. “If we'd unscrewed the lid, that area would have disappeared, and us with it.”
The meth problem also has made it harder to clean up unrelated dumped substances. Haz-mat officers used to be able to clean up waste oil or antifreeze drums more quickly. “But you can't open these things anymore,” Briley says. “We need to get suited up and put on respirators. That's what meth has done for us.”