A Thursday meeting about the growing meth problem in the New River Valley seemed timely -- Wednesday, Christiansburg Police arrested two people accused of running a meth lab in their home. Community members, business leaders, and law enforcement say it's something they don't want in their hometowns and they hope these types of meetings can help put a stop to it.
It's business John Tutle says he'd rather not be involved in, but work he and his team at Servpro are having to do more and more these days -- going into homes where meth labs have been discovered and cleaning them up.
"I don't want this to be in our community," said Tutle, Business Development Coordinator for Servpro. "But it's really in this community."
It's why he now spends a lot of time giving community groups presentations about the signs of meth use and the dangers of meth labs. Thursday, he spoke to the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce during their luncheon, recalling a time he went into one of the homes his crew was cleaning.
"When I opened that closet door, I knew something didn't smell right," said Tutle. "And in no time, I was feeling dizzy. This one had been ventilated for almost four months, yet here I am, I'm dizzy, and I'm turning beet red. It was scary."
He says the meth problem is becoming scarier for people living in the NRV. He and undercover officers from several local law enforcement agencies also at the meeting noted that meth addicts are now abandoning the traditional, large scale labs in homes in favor of what are called "shake and bake" labs -- where they mix the ingredients in small containers like soda bottles so they can hide them and transport them more easily.
"They're packing all that stuff up," said Tutle. "They're putting it in other people's garbage, in dumpsters, and along the sides of roads."
Law enforcement agencies in Montgomery County say they're pooling their resources together to locate and eliminate meth labs in the community. But they say there's only so much they can do on their own.
Tutle and the officers said the most important thing community members can do is keep an eye out for any red flags that may indicate a meth lab is nearby and to report it. Those red flags include homes with windows that are covered by blankets or foil, chemical odors like cat urine or ammonia, and large amounts of trash -- especially split-open lithium batteries, a large number of match packs, stained coffee filters, and medications like Sudafed that contain Pseudoephedrine among other things.
The Chamber says it's important to raise awareness about the issue so the community is empowered to fight it.
"If you're aware of something, then you can do something about it or think differently about it," said Catherine Sutton, Executive Director of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.
Tutle is working with state leaders to think about the issue of meth labs differently. This year, he helped get a bill passed that requires property owners to disclose if a meth lab was on their property. He's currently working with lawmakers on legislation that sets state guidelines and requirements for the proper cleanup of a property when a meth lab is discovered there.
An event that brought thousands of people to Salem this year is coming back next year. Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. for the Blue Ridge Music Festival.