ELKHART — Elkhart County was ranked second place in the state for the number of methamphetamine labs seized last year.
According to the Indiana State Police, 71 meth labs were seized in Elkhart County in 2011, trailing Vanderburgh County by one.
Kosciusko County ranked third while Marshall County was ninth in the state. Elkhart County has ranked high about the last five years, said Sgt. Trent Smith, public information officer for the Indiana State Police.
The numbers may fluctuate from time to time because some manufacturers will move to other counties or because of arrests, Smith said.
The Indiana State Police also became aware in the last few weeks of an increasing amount of meth trash on the Yellow River in Marshall County after a local fisherman reported seeing several suspicious items floating in the river.
The Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Section and the Underwater Search Rescue/Recovery Team joined in cleaning the river from meth trash. Smith said this is the first time that boats were assigned to search the area, but it’s likely other areas nearby may also be affected.
Officers cleaned an area of three miles of the river and recovered more than 24 plastic bottles that were used as pot-one reaction vessels of hydrogen chloride gas generators, as well as other materials used by meth manufacturers.
Smith said the officers realized most of the items were found near bridges, which meant it was likely the manufacturers have driven by bridges and thrown the materials.
“We’ll probably do more proactive patrol across the state around the rivers looking for the trash and collecting it and it will probably extend to other counties,” he said. “It’s likely Elkhart County just because of the number of labs found, and you have the Elkhart and St. Joe rivers, as well as several creeks.”
Smith said over the last few years the definition of “meth lab” has changed as meth manufacturers find new methods of production. With the use of the “one-pot” method, manufacturers may only use bottles to mix the ingredients, and the method has become popular in the north of the state.
“Every time we see one of those bottles that has residue on it — that’s one lab.”
With warmer weather approaching, more people will engage in outdoor activities, increasing the chance they may run across an outdoor meth lab or trash that is left behind by manufacturers. The Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Section reminds residents that trash from meth labs may contain chemicals that are toxic, flammable, corrosive and acidic. Some chemicals can be explosive when mixed together.
The Indiana State Police asks residents to call the Indiana State Police Meth hotline at 800-453-4756 to report a meth lab.
Smith said another basic step to take is to call the local police department.