December 18, 2014

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Lorain police shut down meth operation on Seventh Court

Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent John Butterworth Jr. tests one of the bottles that police think were used to produce meth. COURTESY LORAIN COUNTY DRUG TASK FORCE

Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent John Butterworth Jr. tests one of the bottles that police think were used to produce meth. COURTESY LORAIN COUNTY DRUG TASK FORCE

LORAIN — Police shut down one of the largest meth labs they’ve ever encountered in Lorain County on Wednesday.

Lorain police Sgt. Tom Nimon said a caller reported a chemical smell wafting out of 903 W. Seventh Court around 3:45 p.m.

Police arrived, smelled the chemicals and eventually determined that there was a methamphetamine “cooking” operation inside. No one was home at the time the lab was discovered, but police said the investigation is ongoing and they expect to charge those responsible with high-level felonies once an arrest is made.

Lorain County Drug Task Force Detective Jim Larkin said investigators found eight clear plastic bottles inside the house containing the ingredients used to make meth using what’s known as the “One Pot” or “Shake and Bake” method.

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that is made by cooking pseudoephedrine, commonly found in cold medication, ammonium nitrate, lithium batteries, camping fuel and drain cleaner.
Investigators found those ingredients inside the house.

Once the pseudoephedrine is cooked in the bottles, it is separated out of the fuel, which serves as a solvent by using hydrogen chloride gas, which is created by mixing salt and sulfuric acid.
Larkin said 17 hydrogen chloride bottles were removed from the residence, which is one half of a rented duplex.

Larkin said law enforcement officer with specialized training were brought in to handle the investigation and remove the material from the house. He said that because cooking meth generates hazardous waste there are strict guidelines for its handling and disposal.

“Everything in there is infused with that, and it’s not a healthy situation,” Larkin said.

He also said the process creates a high risk of fire and explosion.

About 25 percent of meth labs discovered by law enforcement are only found after they catch fire or explode, he said. For instance, if the lithium batteries come into contact with water during the process, the combination effectively becomes a flamethrower, Larkin said.

“It’s kind of a dangerous situation, really,” Larkin said.

Investigators, including an Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent, also found what is believed to have been completed meth, although it still needs to undergo testing. Nimon said field tests indicated the substance was meth.

Collecting evidence and removing the hazardous material took until 10 p.m. Wednesday, Nimon said.

Police said neighbors had been suspicious of the people living where the lab was discovered but didn’t actually know what was going on inside.

“They had no indication they were manufacturing meth next door,” he said.

Lorain County auditor property records list the owner of the home as Richard House of Wellington.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.