MARKED TREE, AR (KAIT) – New numbers released Wednesday indicate the COPS grant program has spent nearly $900,000 in the last year for the safe removal of methamphetamine contaminated products at crime scenes. According to Jeremy Bond with the Marked Tree Police Department, a funding freeze in the program is forcing the city to pay the bill usually taken care of with federal dollars.
"We ended up contacting the cleaning company ourselves and they come out and the city will be billed for the cleanup," said Bond.
According to Bond, the city was recently made aware that it may have to pay Safety & Environmental Associates, Incorporated for hazardous waste removal at meth labs. Tuesday the department arrested two people on meth-related charges.
"They no longer do it because of the funding and no one knew what we were supposed to do. The problem with that is when you have these labs, the crime lab will not accept any evidence from these labs without a form being filled out about the lab itself and you can't do the form unless you have the site cleaned up," said Bond.
Region 8 News contacted Craighead County Sheriff Jack McCann a few weeks ago when the Arkansas Sheriff's Association addressed the lack of funding. He said Monday night the funding will not be available again until June of this year.
"We're going to support the police department and the drug is something that we need to get rid of," said Marked Tree Mayor Wayne Nichols. "The Drug Enforcement Agency didn't have the money to clean it up. Whatever we need to do, we'll clean it up."
Bond said two people were arrested and both should be charged with manufacture of a controlled substance meth, possession with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, unlawful use of communication device, manufacture of meth in presence of certain person and proximity to certain facilities.
Bond said he found quite a bit of finished product at the home. He said the two suspects were renting a room from the homeowner.
Bond said Marked Tree may be the first city in the state to be forced to pay for meth cleanup.
"I think we're the first one, like I said I called the DEA yesterday and they didn't know what to do. It was kind of a learning experience for everybody yesterday on not knowing what to do in figuring out how to get this thing cleaned up," said Bond. "Depending on what stages it's in, you're not only dealing with the possible ammonia in the air, but if they're getting in the final stages to use the generators, it's hydrochloric gas."
Bond said in order to send the evidence to the State Crime Lab; he must get the cleaning company to perform the removal.
"Basically what they haul off is all your byproducts, everything that was used, you're containers that was used to make the meth in, they're going to have waste in them, they haul them off," said Bond. "They haul off anything that's considered hazardous they haul off. They haul off any kind of fuel, flammable liquids they have to haul off all the acids."
According to statistics provided by the Department of Justice, Arkansas spent $925,904 for meth cleanup in the last calendar year. The state has spent $887,203 over the last fiscal year, numbers indicate.
Bond said Marked Tree is applying for a grant provided by the Environmental Protection Agency to possibly reimburse the cost of cleanup.
"The grant that we have to apply for reimbursement is up to $25,000 per incident, even the small labs, this was to me is a small lab and it's probably going to run, if I had to guess, we haven't got the bill yet, but it's going to run two grand," said Bond. "There's no telling how long that will take or if it even gets accepted."