Topeka The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is looking for new ways to clean up meth labs after budget cuts eliminated another state agency’s program.
KBI Director Bob Blecha said Friday that officials from his agency, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and other offices plan to meet Sept. 3 in Wichita to discuss the issue.
Meth labs present a potential environmental problem because of caustic chemicals often used in making the illegal drug. The KBI had been relying on KDHE’s Clandestine Drug Lab Response Program for cleanups.
But last month, Gov. Mark Parkinson announced a new round of cuts to keep the state budget balanced, and KDHE shut down the cleanup program to save $270,000.
The KDHE program helped clean up 132 meth labs in Kansas during the 2009 fiscal year that ended June 30. That’s up from 86 cleanups during fiscal 2007.
The program arose from legislative efforts to combat meth trafficking after law enforcement agencies began reporting the seizure of dozens of meth labs in Kansas in the mid-1990s.
Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, an Independence Republican who led legislative efforts against meth, said KDHE’s action was “a terrible disappointment” and questioned whether the state could have found savings elsewhere.
“There are a wide of range of options to save that relatively small amount of money,” Schmidt said. “This program has a huge impact in communities grappling with the methamphetamine epidemic.”
KDHE’s cleanup program hired private companies to do the work. The KBI says it can go through the DEA to arrange such services, but doing so can delay the start of cleanup work by up to eight hours, when local officials are eager to end any potential environmental threat to a neighborhood.