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Published: Friday, 10/14/2005

Wood County focuses on the dangers of meth use

BOWLING GREEN - In just two years, the Wood County Sheriff's Office has busted 14 methamphetamine labs and arrested 31 individuals involved in making the illegal drug. Twenty-one people have been convicted and sentenced to prison.

But the arrival of the synthetic drug from the West Coast in northwest Ohio has had a trickle-down effect on more than law enforcement and the courts, county officials said at a news conference yesterday.

The county Health Department has been charged with cleaning up three properties where chemicals were mixed and cooked to produce meth, while social workers from the Department of Job and Family Services have removed six young children and two senior citizens from homes that were being used as meth labs, said county Prosecutor Ray Fischer.

Now the agencies dealing with the latest drug problem have teamed up with the Perrysburg-based Prevention Partners of Wood County to increase training and education efforts about meth, a stimulant that can be snorted, smoked, injected, or swallowed.

Sharon Kramer, executive director of Prevention Partners, said the group is using $5,000 in grants to purchase posters, brochures, and other materials intended to raise awareness about the dangers of methamphetamine abuse.

One brochure shows the dramatic change in the appearance of a woman four years after she became a chronic meth user. A large black poster features common household chemicals and equipment used to manufacture meth. At the top of the list: any cold tablets containing ephedrine or pseudophedrine.

"It's an inexpensive drug to make and a relatively inexpensive drug to buy," said Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn.

Another key ingredient is anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer used on corn. Thefts of anhydrous ammonia from grain elevators and tanks parked in farm fields have led to several arrests of meth manufacturers in Wood County.

"It is more of a rural drug, because unlike marijuana or cocaine where you have to have a supplier to get it, you make meth in your backyard," said Carlos Delgado, youth prevention education coordinator with Rural Opportunities Inc.

Both the sheriff's and prosecutor's office have been holding training sessions with law-enforcement personnel, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and even business owners about the dangers of methamphetamine.

"One of the hardest parts of this is the cleanup," Mr. Fischer said. "They're very expensive to clean up and they're very hard to sell once people find out they were meth labs."

Brad Espen, director of environmental health, said the county has cleaned up one former meth lab and is working on two others.

"All of it might sound easy, but we have a lot of hurdles to clear," he said. "Currently there is no state plan for Ohio to address the meth problem. There is no statute to authorize decontamination of the interior of private properties. We have limited cleanup funds available, no or inadequate training for cleanup or remediation. The remediation companies we contact often don't know how to clean up a meth lab."

He said cleanup costs at times exceed the value of the property. The Health Department spent $10,000 to clean up a former meth lab in Montgomery Township that will likely be sold at sheriff's sale. Another home that had housed a meth lab was sold at sheriff's sale but the buyer backed out when he learned what had been inside, Mr. Espen said.



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