The discovery of a makeshift methamphetamine lab at a Calhoun Crossing apartment by police Monday resulted in the temporary evacuation of the complex and nearby homes as a DEA hazmat unit out of Atlanta was called in to clean up the dangerous materials, which could have “burnt the whole complex down,” police say.
According to Calhoun Police Department reports:
The residents of Apartment 16 at the 601 Harlan St. complex were taken into custody in connection to the lab just after 4 p.m. Monday. Amanda Jean Skaja, 34, and Richard Thomas Skaja, 35, both remained in jail Tuesday without bond. They are each charged with trafficking in meth, manufacturing meth, possession of meth and possession of drug-related objects.
Police found six fluid ounces of meth and two grams of meth in solid form, along with multiple hypodermic needles and a glass pipe. Two of the needles were loaded with a clear liquid.
Calhoun police received an anonymous tip recently concerning the Skajas and their activities in their apartment, Calhoun Police Chief Tony Pyle said. Following an investigation, police discovered the residents were on probation. So in unison with probation officials, police went to the Calhoun Crossing apartment Monday and conducted a search, discovering the meth lab.
“At that point, when we realized what we had come across, we called the DEA to process it and clean the lab up,” Pyle said.
The area of Harlan Street and Calhoun Avenue was shut down, and residents of the apartment complex and nearby homes were evacuated until the cleanup could be completed. The hazmat unit began cleanup operations around 6 p.m., eventually finishing up and giving the all-clear about two hours later. Residents were allowed to return to their homes thereafter.
"Everybody went home except for the residents of Apartment 16," Pyle said.
A member of the DEA unit told Pyle that the contents of the lab, used in the makeshift process known as “shake and bake” to produce meth, was “enough to have burnt the whole complex down” if it had reacted.
Pyle said the “shake and bake” method involves someone combining all the precursors of meth in a 2 liter bottle and then shaking it to mix the chemicals.
“It’s very volatile,” he said.
To complete the process, the 2 liter has to remain in a cold environment, which the Skajas had been keeping in a freezer in their apartment, Pyle said.
“If it heats up then it could explode,” he said, adding that if the power were to go out and the freezer shut off, then it could have instigated a chemical explosion, or even dropping the 2 liter could have caused one. “These are more dangerous than traditional chemical meth labs.”
In recent years, the source of meth has primarily been from Mexico, with it being cheaper to purchase meth from cartels than for those stateside to produce it themselves, Pyle said. But, there are still cases, as seen Monday, of people attempting to do it on their own.
“This shake and bake stuff is like the garbage of methamphetamine,” Pyle said. “It’s really cheap but it will give you the effect of meth.”