Officers see explosive growth in meth's popularityTAYLORVILLE - Following months of investigation, members of the Clatsop County Interagency Narcotics Task Force busted a sophisticated methamphetamine lab near this small community southeast of Wauna.

Task force leader Sgt. Tom Bergin of the Clatsop County Sheriff's Office coordinated the raid with three other members of the force. One suspect, Shannon Kelly, 34, was arrested Tuesday without incident and was cooperative with officers, he said.

Bergin said the lab, located in a house on gravel Ruleville Road, was next door to another small house that was home to a marijuana growing operation his team raided about five months earlier.

Sgt. Tom Bergin of the Clatsop County Sheriff's Department labels the equipment and ingredients removed from the Taylorville house Wednesday morning.Kelly was charged with possession, manufacturing and distribution of a controlled substance. Because she is a convicted felon, she was also charged with illegal possession of a firearm after officers found a Marlin .22 rifle in her house.

Wednesday morning, members of the task force, wearing hazardous materials suits, brought out dozens of pieces of equipment and chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine.

"This was definitely a good meth lab," Bergin said.

He said he believes the lab could produce about 1 ounce to 1 1/2 ounces of the drug every six days and those ounces could be sold for about $1,200.

"You can really make some quick money," he said.

Bergin said almost all of the drug produced at the lab was sold within Clatsop County.

Numerous tips led officers to investigate Kelly, and eventually the task force decided to make its move Tuesday. Bergin said officers located a "quantity" of methamphetamine in Kelly's car parked in front of her house and asked her if they could search inside her home, which she consented to. Inside they found all the makings for the lab.

Most of the products found in the house are legal, but cooked together they can be used to form the illegal stimulant. Included in the lab were hundreds of match strike plates that are soaked in chemicals to draw out the red phosphorus - a key ingredient in methamphetamine. Other equipment included funnels and a pressure cooker used to "cook" the ingredients.

Bergin said the quality of the drug from the lab probably was high because of the attention to detail and cleanliness. He said some labs who concentrate more on speed rather than quality can produce the stuff in about six hours.

Because of the toxicity of the chemicals involved, a federal Drug Enforcement Agency team will clean up the rest of the site after all evidence and fingerprints have been taken from the home. Bergin said the federal agency will pay for the cleanup.

The most recent bust is the eighth or ninth lab the task force has broken up this year, Bergin said, adding that's more than triple than what was accomplished last year.

With a lack of funding and manpower, Bergin said the task force can't actively search for labs, but only deal with those they "fall into."

In light of this, he said it is becoming clear that methamphetamine is the county's fastest-growing drug problem.

"The drug is taking over," he said. "It's the No. 1 problem. We're seeing the meth keep rising and rising."

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