VOLUME 6 - 2013-2014 - ISSUE 2

Hazard and Blight: Methamphetamine Waste’s Insidious Persistence and Why the Federal Government Should Be Guided by Kentucky’s Approach to Cleanse Natural Resources

 Brandon Adcock

6 Ky. J. Equine, Agric. & Nat. Resources L. 301 (2014).

There are times when the aftermath of an event is worse than the original incident. This is true of the methamphetamine empire. The enemy is decentralized and the refuse from production is toxic waste perhaps more hazardous to the public and natural resources than the clandestine labs’ addictive product. Superlabs may individually pose the greatest waste hazards, but the aggregate of the small-time cooks and the mom-and-pop labs scattered in every conceivable location, compose the wider environmental hazards. These small-time operations should remain the prime concern of meth legislation.

Natural resources, vital to life, occupy the same space as the “apartments, mobile homes, motel rooms, suburban homes,” college campuses, and car trunks serving as makeshift labs. These makeshift labs produce up to six pounds of waste for every pound of meth. Furthermore, while some labs employ graduate chemists, it does not take finesse to be a meth cook. As an illegal business, green practices and public health are not the cook’s concern. Generally, cooks would rather conceal the waste in their surroundings than abide by regulations, which put them under government scrutiny. On a small scale, meth production waste can attach to carpet, walls, and furniture. On a large scale, the toxic waste seeps into the soil, groundwater, rivers, and pollutes the air. To this end, state legislatures have implemented plans to clean up this waste.

The lion’s share of meth legislation has concerned one of two paths. The primary path has been to bottleneck meth manufacturers by restricting their access to the ingredients necessary to make their addictive product. The secondary path has been to contain the contaminant’s effect on innocent bystanders. The real locus of harm, however, is meth production’s effect on its surrounding natural resources. While the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has failed to address this issue, Kentucky has risen to the occasion and implemented procedures to deal with the persistent and detrimental effects of methamphetamine waste. The Federal Government should adopt Kentucky’s remediation methods, since they are more comprehensive than current federal solutions, and borrow from the most effective procedures of other states. Moreover, while adopting the Bluegrass State’s more comprehensive approach, the Federal Government should adapt Kentucky’s practices to be more aggressive, which will ensure a more successful conservation of natural resources across the United States.