EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


February 19, 2014

Training targets spotting underground drug labs

Agencies host lecture for regional law enforcement

NEWBURYPORT — For a clandestine drug laboratory to be successful, the key is not to attract attention. The longer it can blend in with a community, like recently discovered drug labs on Christopher Street and inside a Rowley storage unit over the summer, the longer it can stay in operation.

Knowing that all too well, a regional law enforcement committee is hosting a training session tomorrow night at Newburyport City Hall aimed at helping local responders, including police, firefighters and EMTs, to spot underground drug labs and then secure the scene until trained professionals arrive.

The 6 p.m. lecture, called First Responder Clandestine Laboratory Awareness Training, is sponsored by the Northern Essex Regional Emergency Planning Committee (REPC) in partnership with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and Newburyport-based Enpro Environmental Services. Members of REPC include Newburyport, Amesbury, Merrimac, Newbury, Rowley, Salisbury, West Newbury, Boxford and Georgetown.

REPC chairman R.J. Wolcik said the roughly 75-minute training session includes a lecture by a DEA official, who will give first responders tips on what to do should they find a drug lab, including reporting it to the necessary agencies.

“Who would you call and how would you get ahold of them,” Wolcik said.

Enpro, which has a contract with the DEA to clean up drug labs and secure evidence, will also set up a mock lab that includes the types of chemicals typically used and the types of containers used to store them, Wolcik added.

“We thought it would be a good idea to invite all first responders as an awareness training,” Wolcik said.

Merrimac police Chief Eric Shears, a longtime member of the DEA’s clandestine lab enforcement team, said the session should prove invalable to first responders who may not yet be aware of how volatile and unstable the labs can be. Shears added that the seminar should also help police departments sniff out drug labs.

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