A funding flap in Washington has thrown what was previously the best system for counting clandestine meth labs into uncertainty, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which used to track the number of meth labs by counting the number of requests for financial assistance from local law enforcement agencies, can no longer rely on that method. Federal funding for disposing of the toxic waste from clandestine meth labs ran out nine months ago, forcing police departments and sheriff's offices in Georgia to pick up a $500,000 tab.
A new federal appropriations law restored $12.5 million for cleaning up meth lab waste. But it's not yet known whether Georgia will be among the states that benefit, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said. Now the local police agencies no longer have an incentive to report meth labs to the DEA, which previously kept accurate records, said Special Agent Fred Stephens of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Up until this year, those records showed clandestine meth lab incidents, such as lab seizures, were soaring in Georgia, from 165 in 2009 to 289 in 2010 — a 75 percent increase. Police still can submit information about meth lab incidents to the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center or to the GBI's website. Those statistics, however, are not reliable because both systems rely on voluntary submissions.