June 26, 2015 - 12:42 PM
KAMLOOPS – A massive crystal meth operation capable of producing 60,000 hits of the drug in one batch has been shutdown by Kamloops RCMP in the Barnhartvale area and the two men arrested are facing charges.
A house in the 1700-block of Pratt Road has had a heavy police presence in front of it since June 24. According to the RCMP's drug unit coordinator Cpl. Derek Westwick, officers wearing hazmat gear will stay on site until all the evidence is collected and the scene is cleaned up. At this stage in the investigation, Westwick says it appears the lab was operating solely out of a garage on the property.
Mark Carlson, a neighbour who’s lived in the area for 27 years, and calls it a "quiet and friendly neighbourhood," says he didn’t know the people living in the house.
“I’m in disbelief. I can’t believe it’s here,” Carlson says, adding it troubled him to know children walked by the drug lab daily to a school five minutes down the road.
“I think the guy that owns the place was renting it out," he says.
He says he and his wife heard 'whooping and hollering' the night of the raid and says he visited the property the next day to ask about the RCMP presence.
“We didn’t know what was going on. The officers basically said ‘don’t worry,’” he says. “I’m concerned with the lack of information."
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Cheryl Bush says the detachment’s Targeted Enforcement Unit raided the home on Wednesday after a three-month investigation and the lab was active when officers arrived to execute the search warrant.
Bush says the Pratt Road lab is linked to a second search warrant executed at a home in the 2700-block of Valleyview Drive back on June 4 where police seized a kilogram of cocaine, 500 grams of methamphetamine, two ounces of heroin and over 750 tablets of oxycontin. Investigators expect to make further arrests.
Kamloops RCMP has never seen a lab of this size — defined as a ’super lab’ — in the city before. She says there could be links to organized crime given its size and level of production.
Two Kamloops men were arrested during the raid, a 55-year-old and a 25-year-old, and are facing charges of production and trafficking of a controlled substance. Bush says the pair are known to police.
Officers are keeping a close eye on the chemicals as they dismantle the lab.
Westwick, who is a member of the RCMP Clan Lab Team from the lower mainland, says the harsh solvents, acids and bases are stored improperly which creates an added risk of a chemical explosion or toxic gases given the hot weather Kamloops is currently experiencing. Around 10 a.m. today, a chlorine smell hung over the property with paramedics and officers watching air quality monitors.
Westwick says the lab is sophisticated and made up of tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. He says drug producers face the danger of explosion or fire when mixing chemicals based on knowledge obtained online and also notes they are worried about possible environmental damage.
“There’s no evidence to say where the waste is going,” Westwick says. Each kilogram of meth can leave up to five kilograms of liquid or solid waste. In his six years on the unit, he says drug cooks have poured waste down sewers, abandoned it in remote areas or put buckets of it in dumpsters. The concern is the chemical waste could leech into the environment contaminating soil and water sources. But at this point, investigators have not found the waste on site.
Once investigators collect all evidence and Health Canada gets samples of the drug, Westwick says everything collected will be transported by a third party and stored at a secret RCMP location in Surrey where it will remain if and when the matter goes to court. The likelihood of lawyers showing drug lab evidence in the courtroom is unlikely as it would require members of the court to don protective gear.
“We’ve never had the courts or defence ask to bring it in,” he says. Once the case concludes, the seized chemicals will be destroyed.
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— This story was updated at 12:27 p.m., Friday, June 26, 2015 to include more information from RCMP.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015