Liquid Meth Seizures Prompting Health Risk Concerns
SAN JUAN - An increase in heavy narcotics continue funneling through Rio Grande Valley ports of entry. Law enforcement said one drug being seized more frequently is liquid methamphetamine.
The Valley is just one corridor the narcotic has to make its way through before being dispersed throughout the country.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS wanted to know if Valley law enforcement are prepared to handle the dangerous drug.
San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez said the drug is causing concern for law enforcement. He said not only is liquid meth dangerous for those consuming it, but there are also risks for anyone exposed to it.
“The seizure of liquid meth is happening more frequently than ever,” he said.
Gonzalez said people are exposed to health risks when coming in contact with liquid methamphetamine or meth, ranging from a serious reaction to death.
“What makes it volatile is chemicals. Any time you’re dealing with chemicals it’s always volatile,” he said.
Gonzalez said law enforcement agencies take measures to prevent contamination.
“If we’re going to respond to it, we got to have special suits, special equipment, special training in order for us to go out there and safeguard the location,” he said.
In spite of the protective gear, Gonzalez said the specialized unit within his department uses robots if entry to a location isn’t necessary.
He said he’s not risking his team to save a drug.
Pharr Fire Department Chief Lenny Perez said they’re also familiar with liquid meth calls at ports of entry.
“Most of the time when we go there is to verify whether it is liquid meth or not and to help them either package it or to verify it’s the drug they’re looking for,” he said.
Perez said his department won’t take or dispose of the drug.
Once the drug is positively identified as liquid meth, U.S. Customs and Border Protection documents the case and passes the seized narcotic to the U.S. Drug and Enforcement Administration.
The DEA will then send the drug to one of seven regional laboratories. It is then further analyzed and held until a prosecution is made in a case. The liquid meth will then be disposed of under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation.
Gonzalez said decontamination of an area is at work while these steps take place.
“The decontamination of a person, of a place and a location is going to be very difficult for us. More likely, we got to displace residents at least 300 feet from the radius around,” he said.
Gonzalez and Perez agree liquid meth calls are never simple operations. They said that’s where training and experience are essential.
The rise in liquid meth passing through the Valley sparked the San Juan Police Department to schedule a refresher course. It’s so the Law Enforcement Emergency Regional Response Team, or LEERT, can be up-do-date on how to respond to liquid meth cases.
Other Valley departments equipped to respond to narcotics calls include Edinburg, Brownsville and McAllen fire departments.
People exposed to or using liquid meth experience tremors and involuntary spams, chest pain and high blood pressure, which could potentially result in irreversible damage to the brain or the heart.
Perez said the reason why liquid meth is a high track item is because more of the drug is smuggled in that form.
“What they do is they compact in a liquid form. So, once they transport it over, they’ll pour it out and crystalizes and becomes crystal meth, and that’s when they disperse the drug itself,” he said.
Liquid meth is clear liquid that often is smuggled in items such as cleaning supplies or bottles.