By Alex Lippa
---- — The name says it all: The Drug Terminator.
Police departments use the small mobile incinerator to destroy illegal drugs and other seized.
But there are concerns it isn’t environmentally friendly.
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has suggested police departments not use the incinerator.
“We just don’t know if these comply with our air toxin laws,” said Gary Milbury, a DES Air Resources Divisions employee. “There’s a lack of data right now with these devices.”
The device is fueled by wood or charcoal and uses two electric blowers to quickly create a large amount of heat. The drugs are reduced to ashes.
Linda Henning, marketing director for Elastec, which manufactures the Drug Terminator, said she realizes the device might not meet every environmental standard.
“There are two environmental guidelines,” she said. “One for the federal and one for the state. We are complying with the federal guidelines, but it’s too difficult for us to comply with every individual state.”
Henning said states should look at the value it provides, rather than worrying about the environmental impact.
“It’s really the lesser of two evils,” she said. “Do you want to get drugs off the street or do you want to worry about a few little emission problems? It’s not like these are in every back yard.”
DES recommends police departments instead use large municipal incinerators, which have been approved as environmentally safe. There is one in Claremont and one in Penacook.
“We know how well controlled combustion is at those facilities,” Milbury said. “Those are discharging about 100 feet off the ground, while the other devices are right around breathing level.”
Milbury said air toxins, including hydrogen chloride, dioxins and furans, could be emitted by the smaller incinerators. He said it would cost close to $20,000 to perform emissions tests.
In Derry, police have used the Drug Terminator for several years. Police Chief Edward Garone said he was not aware of DES concerns. There was an article about the incinerators and DES concerns in the department’s most recent monthly newsletter.
“I haven’t seen it, but I’d be interested in looking at them,” Garone said. “To date, it hasn’t been a concern.”
Londonderry police have a mobile incinerator, but police Chief Bill Hart said it’s rarely used. He said the department bought the device with forfeiture funds several years ago.
“Most of the jobs that we see are, unfortunately, fairly large,” Hart said. “The reality is, we’ve used it only about eight or 10 times in about a decade.”
Hart said the town uses an incinerator in Massachusetts that can handle larger amounts of drugs.
“This has worked out well for us so far,” Hart said. “If it changes, we will look at something else.”
In Atkinson, acting police Chief Patrick Caggiano said the town doesn’t need an incinerator.
“When we do our annual drug take-back days, initiated by the (Drug Enforcement Agency), we hand them over to them,” he said. “We don’t have much of a volume, so we are able to hold it until we are able to get rid of it.”
Garone said having the Drug Terminator makes it easier for the department when the evidence room gets too full.
“It’s served its purpose and we’ve been satisfied with the product,” he said. “We have the ability to destroy drugs at our schedule, instead of waiting for the ability to take it to an incinerator some place.”