Meth Mess: putting innocent lives at risk

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SCOTT COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) - The meth epidemic is taking over families, overcrowding jails and killing users.

Now, one more dark side to the chronic problem: it's putting innocent people at risk.

These are meth dump sites. There could be one down your street, near a playground, even at the end of your driveway.

That's what makes them so deceptive and dangerous.

A late night bust is a familiar scene for Drug Agent Kris Lewallen.

But when he first started, he just went in with his uniform, breathing deadly chemicals.

"Back then the way to test a meth lab was just to pick up a bottle, and smell it and see what was in it," said Lewallen. "It's very serious. It can cause you to go into respiratory arrest, it could collapse your lungs, it could stop your breathing."

In a two week span, Scott County deputies arrested nine people, quarantined three homes, found two meth labs and four dump sites.

These dump sites are most troubling because they can be anywhere.

Used soda bottles are now disposable shake-and-bake labs, and the toxic trash just tossed out the window.

Most dump sites are on back roads or in the woods. Places that people just throw out their used meth lab, with no regard as to whom may find them.

In one neighborhood behind Winfield City Park, it was a group of children.

"It's not safe to let them out of the house, you can't let them outside now," said Stacy Daniels.

When Daniels' son found a suspicious bottle, fortunately, he knew what to do. He called his dad and police cleaned it up before anyone got exposed.

That's why the Sheriff's Department is going across the county, talking to everyone older than ten years old, He shows what these mobile meth labs look like, and the materials cookers use to make it.

"Drain opener. You can see the skull and crossbones that says poison," said Lewallen.

Agent Lewallen takes this back pack to every presentation, all in hopes of ending the deadly cycle that's taken over east Tennessee.

"It's going to take an entire generation, or two generations, to eliminate this. We're simply not winning," said Sheriff Mike Cross.

Another problem for deputies is the shared border with McCreary County.

Agent Lewallen says about 80% of pseudophedrine buyers at the Oneida Walgreens are from Kentucky. They get the stuff because the states can't cross check information.

Even though departments do work to stop the abuse, until there's a nationwide database, users will jump state lines.

Lewallen says so far this year, Scott County deputies have made more than 30 meth-related arrests.

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