Money to clean up meth labs disappears

By Brandon Richards - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, La (KPLC-TV) – Federal funding used to pay for cleaning up meth labs has dried up, leaving local law enforcement agencies in a tight bind.

Last week, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency informed law enforcement agencies across the country that the program used to pay for meth lab cleanups has been cut.

The funds dried up on February 23rd after the White House denied their $27 million request.

That means it's up to local law agencies to pay for the cleanup themselves.

The problem is each meth lab costs $1,000 to $3,000 to clean up and local departments don't have any spare money lying around.

The director for the Combined Anti-Drug Task Force (C.A.T.) in Calcasieu Parish, Billy Chapman, said the cost will hit local agencies hard.

"It's going to be a burden for local law enforcement, no doubt about it," said Chapman. "That's a big hit for us."

Chapman said C.A.T. will use money from their operations budget to pay for meth lab cleanups, but that means they will have less money for crime-fighting programs.

Chapman said the eight agencies that make up C.A.T. will have enough money available to pay for meth lab cleanups, at least for the short-term.

It all depends on the number of labs they encounter this year.

"This year already we've had nine," said Chapman. "It's just March. We've had as many in three months as we've had all of last year."

Funds to the DEA meth lab cleanup program could be restored by Congress, however it is not clear whether that will happen.

According to the latest information available from the DEA, authorities seized 80 methamphetamine labs in Louisiana in 2009. The year before there were 16 seizures.

Missouri leads the nation in the number of meth lab seizures, with more than 1,700 reported cases in 2009.

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