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Meth labs found in state woodlands

Paul Peirce
| Friday, May 4, 2012, 9:58 a.m.

A new threat is growing in Pennsylvania's woodlands: methamphetamine labs.

Discoveries of the remnants of two outdoor labs -- one in Kooser State Park in Somerset County and another in Michaux State Forest in Franklin County -- prompted state police and park officials to warn visitors to be on the lookout.

"It is frightening because these are potentially so lethal," said state police Sgt. John Rock, commander of the Somerset barracks.

Methamphetamine -- also known as "speed, "meth," "crystal," "crank" and "chalk" -- is a highly addictive stimulant that dramatically affects the central nervous system. It can be smoked, inhaled, injected or taken orally.

Illegal trafficking of the drug is on the rise throughout the nation, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

At Kooser, the manufacturer used three, 2-pound bottles of crystallized drain cleaner and left the empty containers behind along with plastic tubes, a gasoline can and an empty beverage container smudged with an ammonia residue.

Rock said hikers discovered the Kooser lab March 28 along Kingora Trail and notified park authorities.

State police Cpl. Robert Barnes, of Somerset, said anyone encountering items such as propane tanks, plastic buckets or gas cans should be careful.

"Especially if these items have tubes, usually plastic tubes, people should use extreme caution and stay away. Do not touch anything and contact the police immediately," he said.

Terry Brady, deputy press secretary for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the lab discoveries are an indication that use of the drug is spreading eastward from the Southwest and West, where it has been growing in popularity.

"Outdoor labs have been a rarity, but we're seeing it more and more. Our bureau of state parks oversees 117 state parks spanning approximately 300,000 acres, and our department of forestry oversees 2.1 million acres, so there is a lot of open space," Brady said.

"It used to be that our personnel were on the lookout for little plots of marijuana. Now this is another worry."

Special state police teams cleaned up the Kooser and Michaux labs.

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