Note: This story was updated at 5:15 p.m.
Authorities found what they described as an active methamphetamine laboratory on Tusculum Drive on Wednesday, and three people were arrested, including two people who live at the home.
The Seventh District Crime Task Force determined the home was an active meth lab at about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Director Russell Barker said. The alleged lab was inside a home at 197 Tusculum Drive, Apartment C.
Three members of the Crime Task Force first checked the home wearing hazardous materials suits and breathing oxygen. After they determined it was an active meth lab, they went back in to remove what Barker described as meth lab materials and trash left from cooking meth. Officers also found finished product, Barker said, although he didn’t have information on how much.
Officers collected the meth lab-related materials in front of the home on a blue tarp. Wearing gloves, boots, and sometimes using breathing masks with eye shields, they also placed some items in plastic five-gallon buckets.
A man and woman who live at the house were decontaminated and taken to jail in white Tyvek suits at about 7:45 p.m. Wednesday. Barker said one of them had been inside the home but was coming out when officers arrived.
Officers searched a Pontiac Vibe hatchback vehicle in front of the home with help from Oak Ridge Police Department Officer Christopher Wallace and his dog Fernondo. Officers also searched a four-door Honda sedan parked at an angle in the parking lot of the two-story apartment building. Barker said the third person who was arrested, reportedly on unrelated charges, had been in the Honda.
Neighborhood residents occasionally drove by slowly, sometimes taking pictures, and some peeked out of nearby homes as authorities searched Apartment C and collected alleged meth-making materials. Some residents stopped to ask what was happening. A female passenger in a car driving by during the police action said it’s a good neighborhood, and she was glad to see authorities removing the meth lab.
Barker said the Seventh District Crime Task Force had been investigating narcotics trafficking at the home and that led to a search warrant, which was executed Wednesday. He declined to say how long officers had been at the property on Wednesday.
The Seventh District Crime Task Force is comprised of officers from Oak Ridge, Clinton, Anderson County, Oliver Springs, and Rocky Top, which have combined narcotics officers.
Barker said meth labs pose a variety of hazards, including the dangers from toxins, potential fires and explosions, and the criminal element they attract. The Tusculum Drive home, a rental unit, will probably be quarantined, Barker said. The other apartments have been deemed safe because of firewalls and because they don’t share attic space.
In the past, Anderson County has led the state of Tennessee in meth labs, Barker said. But in the last three years, that’s dropped dramatically through law enforcement. There are fewer “mom and pop” operations, and it’s harder to get pseudoephedrine, a precursor chemical that has been placed behind the counter at pharmacies and now requires identification.
Among the four charges the two residents of the Tusculum Drive home were each expected to face are possession of drug paraphernalia, initiation of methamphetamine, manufacturing methamphetamine, and possession of Schedule II drugs for resale, Barker said. There could be a school zone enhancement to the charges as well due to the lab’s location relatively close to a day care, Barker said Thursday.
It wasn’t immediately clear what prior records the two residents might have, he said Wednesday.
A Tennessee Meth and Pharmaceutical Task Force pickup truck and trailer were at the scene on Wednesday. So were the Seventh District Crime Task Force, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, the Oak Ridge Police Department, and the Oak Ridge Fire Department. The ORFD brought a hazardous materials truck and helped the Seventh District Crime Task Force members get in and out of their hazmat suits.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Copyright 2016 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.