U.P. meth issues costing taxpayers

MARQUETTE COUNTY — Unlike most states, meth use in the U.P. is for personal consumption and not used as an income generator. Therefore, a lot of homes, garages and other places can be used to manufacture meth and the cleanup is a problem for taxpayers.

Poisonous and deadly, meth in Marquette county is far exceeding any other county in the U.P. Its a health concern for the user and for those being exposed to the problem.

“They get in these cycles where they make it for several days in a row, stay up for several days while they are using it,” said Ishpeming Police Chief Dan Willey.

Lt./Det Tim Sholander says, ” The biggest danger is that you have a pop bottle, it’s under pressure and it’s solvent inside of it. Just that bottle being under pressure like that can very easily ignite with the other components that are inside and it’s a huge danger of fire. The second danger is the inhalation of some of the chemicals. It can burn the back of your throat, it can burn your nasal passages and in the end in an enclosed area, it can cause death.”

Along with warning people not to touch the components, the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET) prefers regular law enforcement to also not risk coming in contact with the chemicals.

“Meanwhile the room was filling with smoke, and the smoke was a mixture of the chemicals that were mixing inside the bottles and that were off–gassing and those were chemicals that are typically not suppose to mix, they create a toxic fume and we were exposed to that and subsequently we were brought to the hospital,” explains Ishpeming Police Officer Nicholas Diedrich.

Even though police are seeing results in the number of recent arrests, meth is a cycle.

“So when you have one person who cooks meth and the other people who purchase the components, well sooner or later that person who purchases the components is going to go on to manufacture meth as well. We would like to see some stiffer penalties when it comes to the prosecution of meth labs. We have had some really good success in Marquette County with some of our cases, we’ve also had some great success with the federal prosecutor, he has taken some of our cases and we have seen sentencing up to 12 years,” continued Sholander.

Ishpeming saw their first case in 2009. Police Chief Dan Willey says the number of meth cases has gone down.

“Since then we have been involved in at least 25 cases, manufacturing cases, some possession cases, this year it seems to be tapering off, we’ve only had three incidents in 2015,” added Chief Willey.

But sometimes meth numbers decreasing can bring on other issues.

“Unfortunately if we see meth lower, there is probably going to be another drug out there that will be brought in the area, probably heroine. Right now there is an increase of heroine throughout the United States,” added Lt. Scholander

An easy way to spot a meth user is black, stained and rotting teeth, gum roots also rot away. Along with health threats to users and those exposed, meth is costly to those who don’t use. Each meth lab cleanup can cost taxpayers anywhere from $,6,000 – $10,000.

Chief Willey adds, ” Thank god for the UPSET Team, if that was left to the local municipalities, we would go broke real quick.”
“It’s very costly for us to go in and do this clean up but we would rather take the burden of that cost than have someone get hurt,” added Lt. Sholander.
UPSET officials say, if you see something, say something.