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The impact of methamphetamine labs on public land

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Title:
The impact of methamphetamine labs on public land representations of the problem
Creator:
Maki, Emma Jean
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English
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67 leaves : ; 28 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Methamphetamine -- Environmental aspects ( lcsh )
Drug factories -- Environmental aspects ( lcsh )
Chemical factories -- Environmental aspects ( lcsh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 65-67).
General Note:
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by Emmea Jean Maki.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
53873338 ( OCLC )
ocm53873338
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LD1190.L65 2003m M34 ( lcc )

Full Text
THE IMPACT OF
METHAMPHETAMINE LABS ON PUBLIC LAND
REPRESENTATIONS OF THE PROBLEM
by
Emma Jean Maki
B.A., New Mexico State University, 1990
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Social Science
2003
JU.*...


This thesis for the Master of Social Science
degree by
Emma Jean Maki
has been approved
by
Stephen Koester
oifzi/oz
Dai


Maki, Emma (Master of Social Science)
The Impact of Methamphetamine Labs on Public Land: Representations of the
Problem
Thesis direct by Associate Professor Kitty Corbett
ABSTRACT
This project is a descriptive, exploratory thesis that uses qualitative methods
to address societal problems associated with methamphetamine (meth) production.
The research addresses how methamphetamine labs impact the Western United
States natural environment, specifically federal, national, state, and privately owned
land. It also examines the problem as it is represented by stakeholders in affected
regions, and through portrayals in major newspapers. Along with meth production
and distribution, the project addresses the environmental impact of the labs,
hazardous waste removal and costs, other monetary issues, public policies and
public health concerns.
This study compares two types of information sources on the problem: the
medias representation of this issue (newspaper articles) and individual interviews
with key stakeholders. The conclusion of this research may help to illuminate the
source of the problem and lead to useful solutions that could then lead to a reduction
in methamphetamine production in the future.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed
in


DEDICATION
I dedicate this thesis to my family and friends for all of their encouragement,
help, love, and support.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT
I would like to thank my advisors for their help, patience, and support. I
would also like to thank the University of Colorado at Denver and the Master of
Social Science program for offering such a wonderful degree.


CONTENTS
Figures........................................................x
Tables.........................................................xi
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION..............................................1
Objective.................................................1
Rationale.................................................2
2. BACKGROUND ON THE PROBLEM.................................5
Methamphetamine...........................................5
Methamphetamine Trafficking...............................6
Laws and Policies.........................................6
Methamphetamine Labs..................................... 7
Methamphetamine Lab Hazards...............................8
Methamphetamine Production on Public Land................10
Methamphetamine Lab Clean up and Costs...................13
Public Health Concerns...................................14
3. METHODS..................................................15
Sources of Data..........................................15
Data Set #1: Newspaper Articles
15


Data Set #2: Interviews of Subjects/Key Stakeholders........16
Materials...................................................16
Procedure...................................................17
4. FINDINGS FROM CONTENT ANALYSIS.....................................20
Data Set #1 Media Analysis of Newspaper Articles...................21
Themes Used for Content Analysis...................................23
Seriousness of the Problem..................................23
Chemicals and Ingredients...................................24
Public Health Risks and Safety Issues.......................24
Damage to Public Land.......................................25
Damage to Wildlife..........................................26
Responsibility for Clean Up and Clean Up Costs..............26
Cause for Increase of Meth Labs on Public Land..............27
Who or What to Blame for the Problem........................27
Barriers to Solving the Problem.............................28
Solutions to the Problem....................................28
Other Drug Activity on Public Land..........................29
Other Illegal Activity on Pubiic Land.......................29
Data Set #2 Interviews with Key Stakeholders.....................30
Seriousness of the Problem..................................30
Chemicals and Ingredients
31


j
I
I
I
I
i
Public Health Risks and Safety Issues......................32
Damage to Public Land......................................34
Damage to Wildlife.........................................35
Responsibility for Clean Up and Clean Up Costs.............36
Cause for Increase of Meth Labs on Public Land.............37
Who or What to Blame for the Problem.......................38
Barriers to Solving the Problem............................39
Solutions to the Problem...................................40
Other Drug Activity on Public Land.........................41
Other Illegal Activity on Public Land......................42
5. COMPARISONS ACROSS DATA SETS......................................43
Discussion Summary of Table 5.1...................................45
Seriousness of the Problem.................................45
Chemicals and Ingredients..................................45
Public Health Risks and Safety Issues......................45
Damage to Public Land......................................46
Damage to Wildlife.........................................46
Responsibility for Clean Up and Clean Up Costs.............46
Cause for Increase of Meth Labs on Public Land.............46
Who or What to Blame for the Problem.......................47
Barriers to Solving the Problem............................47
vin


Solutions to the Problem
47
Other Drug Activity on Public Land.............48
Other Illegal Activity on Public Land..........48
6. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS......................50
Discussion..........................................50
Conclusions and Recommendations.....................51
APPENDIX..................................................55
A. SUBJECT CONSENT......................................56
B. METH LAB FOCUS GROUP CONFIDENTIALITY STATEMENT.......58
C. INTERVIEW GUIDE......................................59
D. THEMES AND CODES.....................................62
REFERENCES
65


FIGURES
Figure
1.1 Methamphetamine Laboratories and Dump Sites Seized
from National Forest Service Lands...........................3
2.1. Methamphetamine Lab Waste Dumped on
Colorado Public Land........................................11
2.2 Methamphetamine Lab Waste Dumped on
Colorado Public Land........................................12
2.3 Methamphetamine Lab Waste Dumped on
Colorado Public Land........................................12
2.4 Methamphetamine Lab Waste Dumped on
Colorado Public Land........................................13
6.1 Public Land User Warning Sign...............................54
x


I
i
TABLES
Tables
2.1 Products Commonly Found in Clan Labs..............................9
5.1 Tally of Mentions of Themes in the Text, A Comparison.............44
i
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XI


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Objective
The purpose of this study was to identify problems related to
methamphetamine (meth) production on public land, and to look at how the media
and individual experience reflect upon the issues.
Two kinds of qualitative data media representation of this issue (in
newspaper articles) and individual interviews with key stakeholders were examined
to identify the hazards of methamphetamine production, as well as highlight causes
and solutions to this multidimensional problem. The data were analyzed by a
comparison-contrast strategy using content analysis. The following key questions
guided this inquiry: How do illicit methamphetamine laboratories (labs) impact public
land? Do both the popular press and information from key stakeholders present the
effects of methamphetamine labs on the environment and our society congruently?
Do interviews with individuals who have experienced problems associated with
methamphetamine production add to our understanding of the hazards, impact, and
solutions? Comparing and contrasting these two information sources may lead to
useful solutions to address this growing problem.
1


Rationale
Methamphetamine production and use has escalated dramatically in the past
decade. In 1999, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) participated in the seizure of
1,948 clandestine (clan) labs, 99% of which were meth labs. For comparison
purposes, this number was 306 in 1994 representing a 537% increase in just 5 years
(Hargreaves, 2000). In the state of Colorado in 1994, 24.7% of meth users entering
treatment were new users; in 1997 they represented 30.5%. By 1998, the number of
new meth users declined to 27.3%, and then to 20.4% in 2000 (Mendelson, 2001).
Methamphetamine labs have become a societal problem not only in urban
areas, but also on public land. As police focus on meth production in cities and
towns, makers of the highly addictive drug are moving to vast, lightly patrolled state
and federal forests to set up their labs. Methamphetamine laboratories on national
forest land are usually set up in vacant cabins, caves, and remote areas of the forest,
posing an environmental threat to parks and a public safety threat to forest visitors
who may inadvertently encounter an active laboratory or toxic chemical dump site
(National Drug Threat Assessment, 2002). During the last four years,
methamphetamine production skyrocketed on Forest Service land. In 1997, only 80
labs and dumpsites were found in federal forests. By 2000 that number climbed to
488, growing by 400% from the previous year (U.S. Forest Service, 2000; see Figure
1.1).
2


1997 1998 1999 2000
Figure 1.1
Methamphetamine Laboratories and Dump Sites Seized from
National Forest Service Lands
Source: U.S. Forest Service, Law Enforcement and Investigations, 2000.
The impact of methamphetamine production on public land is a relatively
new, but potentially large, problem. It is a growing multi-dimensional issue that has
become increasingly addressed by the popular media (newspapers). There are huge
costs to society associated with meth production on public land. Some problems
identified by the popular press include: damage to forests, endangered lives (animal
and human) by exposure to hazardous materials on public land dumpsites, and
3


monetary issues (costs to clean up hazardous wastes, more drug enforcement
personnel).
Research in this area is important because it is a newly discovered and rapidly
expanding problem. Scientific literature, government documents, and criminal justice
publications provide information and insight into this rapidly growing problem. The
popular press presents the issues, but often without explanation or hope of solutions
to the problems. There have not been many studies conducted that address the impact
of methamphetamine lahs on public land, but the societal costs seem to be making
their way into our very basic understanding of this important problem.
4


CHAPTER 2
BACKGROUND ON THE PROBLEM
A vast amount of information is available to the general public about drug
abuse and related problems. The purpose of providing background information in
this thesis on the issues associated with methamphetamine and methamphetamine
production is to orient the reader to basic information about meth labs and their
hazards. An extensive literature review gives an overview of the diverse problems
associated with methamphetamine abuse and methamphetamine production.
M ethamphetami ne
Methamphetamine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant drug closely
related to amphetamine, which possesses similar pharmacological properties. Its
legitimate uses have been primarily for its effects in the treatment of obesity,
narcolepsy, and hyperkinesis (Puder, Kagan, and Morgan 1988). However, meth is
also a highly addictive, central nervous stimulant that has gained popularity in the
illicit drug market in Colorado and the United States over recent years. It is the most
prevalent synthetic drug manufactured in the United States (Office of National Drug
Control Policy, 2000). Meth can be smoked, snorted, injected, or taken orally. It
increases the users heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and rate of
5


breathing, and it frequently results in violent behavior in its users (U.S. Department of
Justice). Methamphetamine is becoming an increasingly popular drug to manufacture
because it is highly addictive, cheap, and easy to manufacture (Ashcroft, 1999).
Methamphetamine Trafficking
Historically, suppliers of methamphetamine in the United States were
motorcycle gangs and other independent trafficking groups. Although motorcycle
gangs continue to produce meth and control a share of the market, Mexico-based
trafficking groups entered the illicit methamphetamine market in 1995 and now
dominate the trade (U.S. Department of Justice, DEA, 1999). In 1999, the DEA
estimated that organized crime groups operating out of Mexico and California
controlled 80 to 90% of meth production in the United States. Although clan labs in
California continue to produce more meth than any other region, thousands of
independent U.S. traffickers operate large numbers of the smaller mom and pop
laboratories (Hargreaves, 2000).
Laws and Policies
The government responded to methamphetamines increased popularity with
the 1996 Methamphetamine Control Act, which promotes the maximum criminal
penalty for drug possession and increases the maximum criminal penalty from four to
ten years for possession of manufacturing equipment. The law also establishes new
controls and penalties for the distribution of chemicals involved in the production of
6


methamphetamine, including precursor chemicals of iodine, red phosphorous, and
hydrochloric gas. These chemicals were added to the Chemical Diversion and
Trafficking Act list of chemicals, requiring provision of a name, address, and proof of
a legitimate purpose for the purchasing of large quantities of these chemicals. Large
purchases of pseudoephedrine (which can be a substitute for ephedrine in the
production of methamphetamine) are now more traceable under the Controlled
Substances Act. The 1996 Act also increases civil penalties for chemical supply
companies who sell chemicals to persons who produce methamphetamine (Wermuth,
2000).
Methamphetamine Labs
Methamphetamine is produced both commercially and clandestinely in the
United States and abroad. A clandestine methamphetamine laboratory is an illicit
operation consisting of a sufficient combination of apparatus and chemicals that
either have been or could be used in the manufacture of controlled substances
(Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2000). Over thirty-two chemicals and different
formulas and methods can be used to produce methamphetamine. The following are
some examples of methods of methamphetamine production. The phenyl-2-propane
method typically utilizes chemicals such as phenyl-2-propane, aluminum,
methylamine, and mercuric acid. Ephedrine/pseudoephedrine reduction methods
typically use ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, hydriodic acid, and red phosphorus. The
7


birch reduction method, which is also known as the Nazi Cooking Method, was
named for the process used to make meth during World War II in Germany to
energize Wehrmacht troops (Snell, 2001). Chemicals used in this cooking method
include ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, anhydrous ammonia, and sodium or lithium
metal. The iodine/red phosphorus cold cook method utilizes ephedrine, or
pseudoephedrine, iodine (combined with water to produce hydriodic acid), and red
phosphorus. This is called the cold cook method because the chemicals are not
heated over a flame but instead are often placed in a hot environment (e.g. the sun)
(National Drug Threat Intelligence Center, 2002). Other common chemicals used in
the meth production process include acetone, alcohol, paint thinner, camp stove fuel,
hydrogen peroxide, lithium batteries, sodium hydroxide (lye), starter fluid, and
toluene (Public Health Environmental Services Division, 2002).
Methamphetamine Lab Hazards
Methamphetamine labs pose dangers for the individuals making the drug,
their community neighbors (including children and families), and also law
enforcement personnel and other teams seizing the labs and cleaning up after them.
Law enforcement personnel are accompanied by chemists, firefighters, and hazardous
material (hazmat) teams to properly explore, seize, and clean up a lab (Hargreaves,
2000). Methamphetamine labs can be found in apartments, homes, garages, campers,
trunks of cars, and on public land. Chemicals and fumes from meth labs permeate
8


carpets, plasters, soil, walls, and wood. The chemicals and fumes are known to cause
cancer, short-term and permanent brain damage, and immune and respiratory
problems (Snell, 2001). Table 2.1 shows products commonly found in
methamphetamine labs.
Table 2,1
r-------------------------------------------------------
Products Commonly Found in Clan Labs*
Commercial Products Chemicals Hazards
Battery Acid Drain Cleaner Sulfuric Acid Corrosive Acid
Camera Batteries Lithium Water Reactive
Coleman Fuel Kerosene Lacquer Thinner Mineral Spirits Petroleum Distillates Flammable
Denatured Alcohol Mixture of Alcohols Flammable
Epsom Salts Magnesium Sulfate Nonhazardous
Heet Methyl Alcohol Flammable
Iodine Crystals 7 percent Tincture of Iodine Iodine Irritant
Muriatic Acid Hydrochloric Acid Corrosive Acid
Nonprescription Cold Medicine Ephedrine/Pseudoephedrine Nonhazardous
Red Devil Lye Sodium Hydroxide Corrosive Base
Road Flares Red Phosphorous Flammable
Starting Fluid Ethyl Ether Explosive/Flammable
*This reflects only a partial list of products commonly found in clan labs. Officers should remember
that any one item does not indicate the manufacture ot methamphetamine.
Note. From "Clandestine Drug Labs by Guy Hargreaves, 2000, FBI Law
Enforcement Bulletin.69 (4), p. 1-6, Copyright Guy Hargreaves. Reprinted with
permission.
9


Methamphetamine Production on Public Land
Methamphetamine production has a serious impact on public land. There has
been an increasing number of meth labs in forests over the past ten years due to an
increase of the drugs popularity in the 1990s and the intensified law enforcement in
urban areas. Remote, often unmonitored, areas offer a more discreet disposal of toxic
by-products of the manufacturing process. The vastness of public lands makes it
difficult to monitor activities, including illegal activities, by the land-using public.
Lab operators often dump hazardous by-products on the land, into streams, and into
landfills and sewage systems. Methamphetamine laboratories on national forest land
are usually set up in abandoned mines, vacant cabins, caves, and remote areas of the
forest, posing an environmental threat to the parks and public safety threat to forest
visitors who may inadvertently encounter an active laboratory or toxic chemical
dumplsite (National Drug Threat Assessment, 2002).
In California, law enforcement discovered a completely buried, full-sized bus
used as a meth lab site. The entire bus had to be removed and disposed of, along with
some of the surrounding soil, because it presented an environmental problem that
could have posed a hazard to public safety (National Drug Intelligence Center, 1995).
Locations of discarded waste from the labs are often referred to as dump sites. The
danger of chemical fires and explosions extends beyond the manufacturing of
10


methamphetamine. For every pound of meth produced, approximately five to six
pounds of hazardous waste is produced (National Drug Intelligence Center, 1995).
Lab operators routinely dump hazardous waste on land, into streams, and
landfills and sewage systems, thus even making the natural environment toxic and
potentially lethal (Snell 2001). Figures 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, and 2.4 show methamphetamine
lab waste dumped on public land.
Figure 2.1
Methamphetamine Lab Waste Dumped on Colorado Public Land
Source: Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service 2002, Reprinted with Permission
11


Figure 2.2
Methamphetamine Lab Waste Dumped on Colorado Public Land
Source: Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service 2002, Reprinted with Permission
Figure 2.3
Methamphetamine Lab Waste Dumped on Colorado Public Land
Source: Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service 2002, Reprinted with Permission
12


Figure 2.4
Methamphetamine Lab Waste Dumped on Colorado Public Land
Source: Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service 2002, Reprinted with Permission
Methamphetamine Lab Clean Up And Costs
The monetary costs associated with the clean up of methamphetamine labs
can be financially devastating to our society. Even when law enforcement is able to
arrest and prosecute the individuals involved, the often staggering costs of removing
containers, contaminated apparatus, and obvious waste is only part of the cleanup
cost. Law enforcement is often burdened by the initial cleanup cost, while property
owners, environmental agencies, health departments, and ultimately the taxpayers are
burdened by the larger remediation costs. Depending upon the extent of the
contamination and whether the area affected is in soil, structure, or water, costs can
13


range from thousands of dollars for initial cleanup to hundreds of thousands of dollars
to remediate a water supply, or make a dwelling re-inhabitable. Soil must also be
decontaminated or removed to prevent seepage or chemical fire (National Drug
Intelligence Center, 1995). The El Paso Intelligence Center estimates that clandestine
methamphetamine laboratories, each of which costs between $3,100 and $150,000 to
clean up (depending upon size), produce as much as twenty metric tons of toxic waste
each year (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2000).
Public Health Concerns.
There are many public health concerns to consider when investigating
methamphetamine labs and their impact on the natural environment. All parties
involved are at risk the meth producers, law enforcement, innocent citizens and
communities, children, and of course, the environment. The chemicals used in the
manufacturing process can be corrosive, explosive, flammable, and toxic. Exposure
can occur from skin absorption, inhalation, ingestion, or injection. Inhalation and/or
skin absorption are the most likely routes of exposure for those exposed directly to
the laboratory environment (Irvine & Chin, 1991).
In summary, methamphetamine is an addictive and devastating drug. Human
lives are affected not only by methamphetamine, but also by its hazardous production.
Public land areas are not excluded from the impact of methamphetamine production,
and in fact, are becoming increasingly popular due to their discreet locations.
14


CHAPTER 3
METHODS
Methamphetamine is an addictive and devastating drug; its hazardous
production is detrimental to our public health and environment. As a counselor and
researcher in the field of drug addiction, and someone who uses Colorados beautiful
public lands for recreation, I became interested in the environmental effects of illicit
methamphetamine production. In order to study the hazards of methamphetamine
production on public land and highlight causes and solutions to this multidimensional
problem, the following methods were used.
Sources of Data
Newspaper articles and individual interviews with key stakeholders were
examined to identify the hazards of methamphetamine production on public land.
Data Set #1: Newspaper Articles
Data Set #1 was comprised of nineteen newspaper articles gathered from
California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, New York and Washington newspapers
dated January 1999 to December 2002.
15


Data Set #2: Interviews of Subjects/Key Stakeholders
Data Set #2 included thirteen males and one female serving as voluntary
participants to be interviewed as part of this study. They ranged in ages 26 to 52
(mean age = 40.71). Participants were recruited from the BLM (Bureau of Land
Management) law enforcement, CBI (Colorado Bureau of Investigations), DEA
(Drug Enforcement Administration), Department of Transportation, environmental
agencies, forest service law enforcement, hazardous material clean up agencies, and a
local drug treatment facility.
Materials
Materials used for collection of newspaper articles consisted of a computer
with World Wide Web access.
Materials used during the subject interviews included an interview guide,
subject consent, spiral notebook, and a tape recorder. The semi-structured interview
guide consisted of demographic information, and seventeen questions pertaining to
methamphetamine production on public land. A computer was used to transcribe the
interviews from the audiotape. A copy of the interview guide and subject consent is
presented in Appendices A and C.
16


Procedure
Review of Newspaper Articles. Representations of the popular press were
obtained by collecting a systematic sample of national newspaper articles off of a
website that lists local newspapers www.newspaperlink.com. This data was
augmented by a convenience sample of other newspaper articles that were relevant to
the thesis topic, found through a Google web-based search engine.
The newspaper sample was pulled from the most recent newspaper articles
meeting the following inclusion criteria: the words or derivatives of the words
environment, forests, hazardous chemicals, hazardous materials,
methamphetamine, methamphetamine labs, methamphetamine production,
public land, and/or wilderness. The topic of these articles, as reflected by their
titles and topic paragraphs, highlighted problems with methamphetamine labs on
public land.
Interviews of Subjects. Subjects were recruited by calling various agencies or
individuals in Colorado who have experience addressing methamphetamine
production and the related problems. The subjects had to reside in the state of
Colorado and have personal experience with methamphetamine production on public
land. The snowball method of sampling (Crabtree & Miller, 1999) led to referrals
of other individuals who were also experts or had personal experience with
methamphetamine production on public land. Participants were informed of the
17


purpose of the study and the approximate amount of time that would be spent on the
interview process. It was estimated the interview would take one to one and a half
hours of the participants time. Once informed consent was obtained, the subject was
interviewed at a location of their choice using a semi-structured interview guide.
When interviewee consent allowed, the interview was audiotaped and the principal
investigator took field notes. All interviewees who were interviewed in person
agreed to be audiotaped. Research subjects who lived farther than two hours away
from the Denver metro area were interviewed by phone, and these interviews were
not audiotaped, but field notes were taken. A total of fourteen interviews were
conducted, with three out of fourteen interviews conducted over the phone; the
remaining eleven interviews were in-person. Two of the in-person interview sessions
were conducted as group interviews per the request of the interview participants. One
group consisted of four members; the second group had two group members.
Study Limitations. A comparative scheme was used as a device to allow for
exploration of the issues, as much as a framework for contrasting the types of
representation. Studying the medias portrayal of methamphetamine production on
public land and comparing it to interviews with key stakeholders provided the data
necessary to get a perspective on the problem of methamphetamine lab impact on
public land.
Shortcomings of the study included not having the resources to have inter-
rater reliability check on codes. However, the initial themes established for the
18


interview guide were also applicable to the newspaper articles and emergent codes
were also categorized for both data sets.
The thematic analysis provided a convenient and consistent way of examining
the data from both data sets, however the themes were a priori as opposed to a
grounded theory approach that relies completely on emergent themes. Another
approach might have been to use the thematic analysis on the interviews and use a
grounded theory approach only using emergent codes to establish the frame and
themes for the media portrayal of the newspaper analysis; convenience samples were
used.
The comparison of the two data sets looked at similarities and differences in
the number of times the themes were mentioned in the media and interview texts. The
sample sizes were not balanced (media =19 and interviews = 14), so a directional
difference of +5 was added to the interview numbers so the media =19 and the
interviews = 19.
Despite these limitations, this study assessed the representation of the
problem of methamphetamine labs on public land to raise public awareness of the
problem and to identify solutions. The media clearly raises public awareness on
issues, and semi-structured interviews provided the stakeholders opinions of the
issues of concern. They were both representative of the multidimensional problem of
methamphetamine impact on public land.
19


CHAPTER 4
FINDINGS FROM CONTENT ANALYSIS
This thesis studied two general kinds of texts, the popular press
(newspapers), and individual interviews with key stakeholders. Content analysis was
used to study the two data sets. Content analysis can be defined as an overall
approach, a method, and an analytical strategy that entails the systematic examination
of forms of communication to document patterns objectively. In using content
analysis as a method, the objective is to get at aspects of the meaning of the content
by examining the data qualitatively. In effect, this method is used to examine how
authors or respondents view and understand certain issues (Trace, 2001). To support
the validity of the study or to cross validate the findings, the following procedures
were applied. The interview guide questions provided the thematic framework. The
themes were applied to the newspaper texts; the emergent themes were added as they
arose.
Triangulation in qualitative research helps to provide evidence that the
researcher has gathered and analyzed data from more than one source to gain a fuller
perspective on the situation being investigated (Seidel, 2003). Adequate and
systematic use of the data was provided by extracting quotes from interviews and
20


newspaper articles and listing them under the appropriate theme heading. The quotes
were taken from different newspaper articles and from different interview data.
The data sets were used to assess similarities and differences in the following
questions: 1) How do methamphetamine labs impact public land? 2) Do both the
popular press and information from key stakeholders present the effects of
methamphetamine labs on the environment and our society congruently? 3) Do
interviews with individuals who have experienced problems associated with
methamphetamine production add to our understanding of hazards, impact, and
solutions?
Data Set #1 Media Analysis of Newspaper Articles
Framework analysis or thematic analysis is a qualitative data analysis
approach that is well suited to qualitative research where there are pre-set questions to
be addressed a priori issues (Seidel, 2003). The thematic framework for the
content analysis on the newspapers was developed from both a priori codes and
emerging issues. A priori coding means the categories were established prior to the
analysis based on a literature review of topic-related material. Next, the thematic
framework was applied to the data using textual codes to identify specific pieces of
data corresponding to the themes. Charts were created using the headings from the
thematic framework so information could easily be read across the data set (Seidel,
2003). The results of the content analysis are discussed in terms of how many of the
21


newspaper articles addressed the following themes and answered the guiding
question: how do methamphetamine labs impact public land?
The themes were established upon completion of a literature review of topic-
related material. The twelve major themes or categories identified included the
following: 1) The seriousness of the problem of meth labs on public land as
evidenced by the closure of federal state of national land, amount of by-product waste
produced, etc. 2) Chemicals and ingredients that addressed chemicals used in meth
production such as anhydrous ammonia, Coleman fuel, etc. 3) Public health risks
and safety issues was established by workers treated for injuries, manufacturing meth
on or near campgrounds and campsites, and children and adults at risk from
hazardous by-products. 4) Damage to public land was evidenced by soil
contamination, water contamination and fire. 5) Damage to wildlife was evidenced
by toxic by-products and animal encounters of evidence of dead wildlife near meth
production sites. 6) The responsibility of clean up and clean up costs of meth labs
was identified by who cleans up and pays for meth labs on public land. 7) The cause
for increase of meth production on public land was a concern because of the vastness
of public land, agency budget problems (not enough manpower), and increased
pressure on finding meth labs in the cities. 8) Who or what to blame was identified
by who or what has been to blame for the increase in meth production on public land;
examples include addicts, meth producers, society, etc. 9) Barriers to solving the
problem of meth labs on public land were identified by public unawareness of the
22


problem, staff limitations, light criminal justice penalties. 10) Solutions to the
problem were identified by statements such as public education on the issue of meth
labs on public land, drug prevention, more government funding, etc. 11) Other drug
activity on public land was identified as other drug problems on public land such as
marijuana being grown and cultivated. 12) Other illegal activity on public land was
identified by trash dumping, theft of forest products, etc. (See Appendix D; Themes
and Codes.)
Themes Used for Content Analysis
Seriousness of the Problem
Methamphetamine production on public land is becoming a serious problem.
The number of meth labs in forests, rural areas and on public land increases
dramatically every year. Of the nineteen newspaper articles studied, 15 (79%) of
them reported on the seriousness of methamphetamine labs on public land. The
seriousness of the problem was addressed in the New York Times in an article
stating, State officials have temporarily closed most of a 26,000 acre state forest
preserve near Mount Rainier National Park, after a conservation officer found a large
methamphetamine laboratory hidden among the fir trees (Egan, 2002). Another
New York Times article reported that Methamphetamine laboratories by the
hundreds have moved into rural areas of Missouri and Illinois (Thomas, 2000).
23


Chemicals and Ingredients
There are many volatile chemicals used in methamphetamine production,
which also leave hazardous by-products after the cook. Common chemicals found on
public land dumpsites include, anhydrous ammonia, lithium, Coleman fuel, and
others. Fourteen (74%) of the newspaper articles reviewed addressed this issue. The
New York Times reported One of the most dangerous by products (used in meth
production) is phosphine, scientists say it is so toxic, only a few molecules can be
deadly (Nieves, 2001). The Associated Press reported that Tahoma forest
authorities found open containers of solution with a Ph of 14 corrosive enough to
bum flesh off bones (Cook, 2001).
Public Health Risks and Safety Issues
The public land user is at risk for stumbling across by-products of meth left
after a meth cook or may run the risk of encountering a meth producer who is armed
and dangerous. Of the nineteen newspaper articles studied, 10 (53%) of the articles
discussed public health risks and safety issues related to methamphetamine
production on public land. These included the Albuquerque Journal, the New York
Times, the Los Angeles Times and local San Diego paper, Great Falls Washington
Tribune, and the Missoula Independent.
The Albuquerque journal reported that Two tents at a campsite were being
used as living quarters and one contained (methamphetamine) lab equipment. The
24


product that was recovered was one step away from the process of developing the
finished product (Szymanski, 2001). The L.A. Times reported that:
Law enforcement have found booby traps in the forests associated with
backwoods meth and marijuana farms including shotgun shell booby
traps, fishhooks hung at eye level along trails and pits of sharpened
stakes designed to impale anyone who falls on them (Murphy, 2001).
Authorities interviewed by a Missoula Independent reporter stated:
Weve had to remove a family from a campsite because they were
camped right on the (meth) dumpsite. The concern was they were
camped right where the chemicals were dumped (Rizzo, 2002). He
also said, Last summer while working on a road crew, a Forest
service employee found a cooler stashed behind a gate. When she
opened the cooler, she inhaled the farm fertilizer anhydrous ammonia,
which seared her lungs (Rizzo, 2002).
Damage to Public Land
Methamphetamine production and the hazardous and toxic chemical waste it
produces not only affects public land users, but it can also devastate public land.
Eleven (58%) of the nineteen newspapers articles studied identified damage to public
land caused by meth production. High Country News reported Methamphetamine
addicts chop down 700 year old trees to feed their habit the rain forests red cedar
are irreplaceable (Marston, 2002). The New York Times reported The impact is
felt acutely here (California) as the clandestine laboratories poison the Central
25


Valleys soil with byproducts. The ground around the Madera farm meth lab was
white with the residue of methamphetamine by-products (Nieves, 2001).
Damage to Wildlife
There is wildlife on public lands not only animals in the forests but also fish
in the streams. If humans on public land areas are at risk for exposure to chemicals
left from meth lab dumps, then wildlife may also be affected. Of the nineteen
newspaper articles reviewed, 3 (16%) made reference to wildlife endangerment
caused by meth production. The leader of a spill response team for the Department of
ecology stated Sometimes theyll (meth producers) just dump it by the side of the
road. It (meth byproduct) gets washed down into streams and kills salmon or poisons
other forms of life (Egan, 2002).
Responsibility for Clean Up and Clean Up Costs
There are several agencies responsible for meth dean up. It usually starts
with drug and law enforcement, then gets delegated to fire departments,
environmental scientists, and finally to the hazardous material workers who remove
and dispose of the waste. Costs of lab clean up can start at a thousand dollars, going
into the millions. Eleven (58%) of the nineteen newspaper articles studied addressed
the issue of who is responsible for hazardous material clean up and clean up costs of
methamphetamine by-product. The Missoula Independent reported that In an area
known for its pristine wilderness, more and more local drug task force members and
26


clean up crews are finding themselves suiting up in protective suits and respirators
before heading into the backcountry to investigate clandestine labs (Rizzo, 2002).
Cause For Increase of Meth Labs on Public Land
Meth labs increase exponentially on public land each year. Of the nineteen
newspaper articles studied, 12 (63%) of them reported explanations for the increase
of meth lab production on public land. As police crack down on methamphetamine
in cities and towns, makers of the highly addictive drug are moving to vast, lightly
patrolled state and federal forests to set up their labs (Cook, 2001). The vastness of
public land provides the methamphetamine producer seclusion; the forest areas offer
good hiding places with less risk of getting caught by law enforcement or being seen
by public land-users.
Who or What is to Blame for the Problem
Public land, public land users, the publics health and even wildlife are at
stake when methamphetamine is produced in the natural environment, so why has this
problem skyrocketed so rapidly? Five (26%) of the newspaper articles studied made
reference to who or what is to blame for this problem. Inferences were made about
methamphetamine addicts, meth producers, criminal justice inadequacies, Mexican
crime families, and motorcycle gangs who may distribute, produce, and/or use
methamphetamine.
27


Barriers to Solving the Problem
Meth production on public land is a complicated problem. Of the nineteen
newspaper articles reviewed, 10 (53%) reported on barriers to solving this issue. The
Denver Post reported that:
Confronting the growing crime problems on public land is a small
force of law enforcement officers who operate on budgets that have
been effectively stagnant or cut back. Many of those officers say they
are under funded, understaffed, and sometimes overwhelmed (Timms,
1999).
Many parts of rural America are experiencing a drug epidemic and rural law
enforcement officials find themselves too few in number to stop it (Butterfield,
2002). The New York Times reported Providing treatment (to meth addicts) has
proven difficult. With the flood of addicts and budget cuts, wait lists are long, fewer
than one in five people can get in, jails are also full (Egan, 2002).
Solutions to the Problem
Finding solutions to the problem of methamphetamine production on public
land is important but also complicated. Eleven (58%) of the newspaper articles
studied reported on potential solutions to this multifaceted problem. Improved
communication between authorities and clean up regulators was addressed. The
Great Falls Tribune mentioned that the legislature should establish clean-up standards
and set aside money and authority for enforcement (Skomogoski, 2001).
28


Other Drug Activity on Public Land
There are other drug issues on public land aside from methamphetamine
production. Public land also is affected by the growth and cultivation of marijuana
plants. The Denver Post reported:
Marijuana eradication in Americas National forests now rivals in
volume those seized along the U.S.-Mexico border. For years, the
total amount of marijuana eradicated across the United States has
exceeded seizures of marijuana being smuggled into the country.
Also, marijuana cultivation is widespread and the officials dont think
the problem will go away anytime soon (Timms, 1999).
Of the nineteen newspaper articles reviewed, 4 (21%) reported on this issue.
Other Illegal Activity on Public Land
Drug related crimes are not the only illegal activities committed on public
land. Three (16%) of the nineteen newspaper articles studied discussed issues related
to other illegal activities on public land. The New York Times reported:
By virtue of their (public land) openness to one and all, the forests are
more and more the home to the unusual, the criminal, and the bizarre.
Law officers face growing challenges, including narcotics smuggling
across international borders and the theft of forest products, including
timber and mushrooms, as well as the run-of-the-mill incidents of
public drunkenness and campground brawls (Jehl, 2001).
As stated in the Denver Post, Theres a persistent illegal market for fossils, timber,
exotic or endangered plants and animals and archeological artifacts (Timms, 1999).
29


Data Set #2 Interviews with Key Stakeholders
Interviews with key stakeholders regarding the problem of meth labs on public land
offer insight into this growing multidimensional problem. The data from the
interviews were analyzed in the same manner as the newspaper articles.
Seriousness of the Problem
The interviewees addressed the seriousness of the problem of meth labs on
public land. They identified it as a problem both to society and to the environment.
They acknowledged that it is a problem that is increasing dramatically every year, and
it is a bigger problem than people realize. A former meth producer who produced
methamphetamine on public land addressed the lengths he went to so he could obtain
ingredients to make the drug.
When I first started (cooking meth) I was tearing up little batteries,
little camera batteries just to get my lithium.. .by the time I got
finished, we were sawing down these old telephone poles.. .you know
the transformers on them.. .and pullin them apart to get the lithium. I
had people pay me $10,000 to show them how to do it (cook
meth).. .and they would get a very crash course from me.
One interviewee from the Bureau of Land Management addressed the topic of
different types of hazardous waste and its impact on public land. He stated They
(meth labs) are no greater threat than any other hazardous waste on public lands,
30


sanitation sites; etc. So meth is no greater threat to public lands than any other
hazardous material.
Chemicals and Ingredients
The toxicity and hazards of chemicals and ingredients used to cook
methamphetamine cannot be ignored. Anhydrous ammonia and lithium were
chemicals of great concern. A Bureau of Land Management Officer remarked, One
sniff of anhydrous ammonia and youre dead. Lithium is volatile when it comes in
contact with water; it is water reactive. Of concern was not only the danger of the
meth cooking process, but the toxicity of the by-products left after the cooks. A forest
service employee stated The chemicals are toxic, the producers are not careful, and
containers have substances on the outside. Hazardous material clean up workers
mentioned that when cleaning up or coming across chemicals The biggest thing we
get is we dont know what they (chemicals) are, its unknown, we have to PH it (test
for PH levels) and find out.. .a lot of it (chemicals) are in unmarked bottles. A
former meth producer mentioned that law enforcement is putting limits and
restrictions on materials used to cook meth:
Sometimes (they) would put a ban on toluene because all of these
chemicals you could buy at a hardware store, and (they) would put a
restriction on toluene so we would switch to nafta, so we would
bounce back and forth between the two. There was Sudafed, thats
where we derived our ephedra from.. .sometimes they would limit
Sudafed so we would find other ways Vicks 44 cough syrup, salt
licks and the one that hardly anyone knows about, health stores
31


ephedra.. All of these (chemicals) are readily available, we would just
switch whatever the task force was leaning on .. .we would just go the
other way.
Public Health Risks and Safety Issues
There are many public health risks and safety issues to consider when
methamphetamine is produced on public land. At risk are the public (land users),
public employees, responders including law enforcement, fire departments, hazardous
material workers, etc. The interview respondents brought up various concerns about
public health and safety issues which included public coming across dangerous and
toxic meth byproduct, encountering users and producers who can be armed and
dangerous, booby traps to keep curious people away from the illegal activity, drinking
water contaminated with hazardous waste, and public septic systems not being able to
strain the chemicals out from drinking water. A forest service employee remarked:
The using public dont expect to find meth labs in their natural forest
and woods. The public helps pick up trash; there are concerns with
people picking up meth lab dumps. A lot of the people (meth
producers) are not nice people, they have weapons and booby traps.
A Bureau of Land Management employee stated Materials used to make meth are
extremely dangerous, i.e. liquid in a milk container boiling without a heat source, the
producers can be armed, convicted felons hazards with weapons. One of the meth
producers had cooked meth in rural cornfields and he mentioned that cooking meth
causes a pretty big (chemical) cloud when youre melting down lithium with
32


ammonia, its real thick.. .black.. .its nasty and causes lithium poisoning.. .thats
what it does, and I mean it could get into the com. Contaminating peoples food
source is an issue of concern. Some members of the public go through trash cans
looking for various items. He also mentioned that he disposed of canisters and bottles
to make meth:
All the cans, batteries, ether cans, etc. I would throw it into a
dumpster, King Soopers dumpster or whatever. I think the biggest
hazards and dangers to the public are me throwing my waste around
and people that are walking up on it, that they dont know what theyre
walking up on.
Another former producer even metioned risks to public workers:
So now you can see the problem, theyve got the stuff in the back of
garbage trucks, youve got it sitting in the rural areas, in trashcans, and
now youve got it in the landfill area. A lot of the stuff is flammable,
so if you get a heavy bulldozer running over that stuff theres a
possibility of it sparking and there you go.
A Department of Transportation employee mentioned Maintenance crews were
telling me they were finding (meth labs) in the rest areas and so I knew there were
some suspicious things being dumped alongside the roads and thats gotten worse
over time for sure.
33


Damage to Public Land
When chemicals or hazardous waste of any kind are dumped on public land,
often times but not always, the damage is visible. A Bureau of Land Management
respondent mentioned that Meth labs have caused fires on public land in other states.
Damage to vegetation long term, firewood (they) have cut limbs off trees to make
trails. An interviewee from the Colorado Bureau of Investigations stated In the
National Forest (they) cut down forest and dug trenches to put a trailer down to
produce meth in it. It kills things where chemicals are dumped how long until it
gets into the waterways? A former meth producer mentioned:
We would just pour it (meth byproduct) out on the ground or the
creeks.. .1 would just go out to the creek and cook and that way if
anyone rolled up on me I could just kick it in the creek and they
wouldnt see anything.
Another former producer mentioned burying meth lab leftovers all over public land
areas. He said:
Well the biggest thing I noticed on public land and forest areas, if we
used the same location more than two or three times, we were finding
dead vegetation trees would start to give us away because they were
dying. There were damaged trees, the trees turning yellow, you know
the area that we would be in especially forest, they (trees) would turn a
lot greener a lot faster because anhydrous is a fertilizer, so it would get
really green up in that area the first couple of times then it would turn
yellow, the branches would start to hang down and the leaves turned
yellow. It just accelerated the growth process to where it actually
killed the trees.
34


He also mentioned burying the lab leftover debris in the forests where he cooked
meth:
ha areas where we dug pits in the mountains, we would use them
twofold, we would use them for fire, we would dig a pit and build a
fire and then we would bum a lot of the stuff when we were done with
it and naturally the fire would flare out from the toluene soaked filters
and that kind of stuff so we had to protect it that way and generally
when we were done twofold, we would throw the rest of the stuff in
there we didnt bum but we would try to bum most of it and what we
didnt bum we would throw in there (pit) and just bury it.
Important points mentioned by the interviewees about meth damage to public land
included the risk of wildfires, soil contamination, waterway contamination, and
damaged foliage and trees.
Damage to Wildlife
Humans are at risk for being exposed to chemicals and hazardous waste on
public land, so why wouldnt wildlife also be affected? A Bureau of Land
Management interviewee mentioned, Meth labs, specifically in waterways, (I) saw
floating fish, the toxicity level was high. The aquatic life bugs, fish, frogs, and
snakes dont stand a chance. A Forest Service employee expressed concerns and
stated, Chemicals leach into the soil affecting wildlife and streams. There are
millions of acres with dead animals all of the time. Currently there is no testing, data,
resources regarding those animal deaths. A Colorado Bureau of Investigations
35


employee mentioned that people cant see the problem directly. A trailer (meth had
been cooked inside of it) was abandoned and a bear tore off the door to the trailer -
there were chemicals inside. A hazardous material worker stated, Ive seen dead
birds around a meth lab before.. .there were three or four dead birds around this lab.
Another hazardous material worker remarked, One lab was discovered in outside
garbage and a bear tore it apart and had the lab (remnants) all over the place, I mean
the potential for him to get injured is there.
Responsibility for Clean Up and Clean Up Costs
Law and drug enforcement agencies, forest service, bureau of land
management, hazardous material agencies are responsible and funded to clean up
labs. The money is delegated from the U.S. government and paid for by taxpayer
dollars. However, property and landowners are often responsible for hazardous
material clean up costs too. An interviewee from the Bureau of Land Management
stated:
Taxpayers are responsible for (meth) clean up costs. Hazardous
materials is the most expensive type of clean up. It can cost around
$10,000 for a simple clean up. The collection, responding, tanks,
disposal sites (the most costly), and decontamination cost. Millions of
taxpayer dollars are used (for hazardous material clean up), meth
production is no exception. Landowners and homeowners are
responsible for clean up also $10,000 to millions.
A forest service employee mentioned:
36


Taxpayers pay for it, also paid through DEA money. Trailers,
abandoned equipment comes from forest service program money
(which can dip into fire prevention, trail maintenance programs, etc.).
Costs easily get into the millions of dollars. Every year nine simple
labs cost $5,000 to $45,000 each.
A DEA agent said, The DEA controls the money and dispatches it to a contractor.
The contractors are paid through funds governed by the DEA whether public or
private lands typically agencies cant afford it.
Cause for Increase of Meth Labs on Public Land
Unfortunately, meth lab production on public lands is on the rise. States like
California and Washington have been hit hard. Colorado is also seeing an increase on
an annual basis. A Colorado Bureau of Investigations employee stated There is a lot
of pressure on the inner cities, (which) causes more (producers) to go to rural areas.
They cook without interruptions or problems. A former meth producer mentioned
convenience and safety in not being caught.
We cold cooked, we used anhydrous ammonia which we got from the
coops so most of us were cooking right out there in the com fields and
what have you, just cooking there, dumping there, it was just easier for
us to roll up out there and get our anhydrous right there, we didnt
have to carry it around town with us or store it or what have you.. .you
know.. .just do it right there.
He also mentioned:
37


I could take all my supplies out there and I could cook a 20-pound
batch in the woods with out worrying about getting busted.. .1 did it
out there in the middle of the night because of the acid clouds, the
ammonia clouds, no one smelled it, no one seen it, you know what I
mean...?
He also stated:
The law enforcement gave the public all of this information.. .what to
look for, smell of ether, smell of this, smell of that.. .its suicidal to try
and cook in town or in a hotel room now, you may get away with it
five or six times, but its just a matter of time and youre through.
Another former meth producer said:
The idea of using trailer parks and public lands, was to be mobile.. .so
you wouldnt be at any one spot any length of time. If something
came up that looked like it was going to be endangerment to what we
were doing, we would just pack it up, move on with the trailer and
move to the next park.
He also stated National Forest.. .they dont have any patrols, they dont have any
patrols in the National Forest, thats where we went was in the National Forest areas.
Respondents also identified that meth as a drug has increased in popularity and is
easy and cheap to make which also plays a part of the increase in production.
Who or What is to Blame for the Problem
The interview respondents identified many issues that may be to blame for the
problem of methamphetamines use and its production. Some sources to blame
38


included meth addicts, producers, society, families (parenting), and the government
(lack of funds). A Forest Service employee said, (Its) a cultural problem, family
situations. Law enforcement employees mentioned, Congress, courts and
legislation are to blame, there are not enough funds for education and prevention
regarding this issue. A former meth producer stated I think societys gone wayside
on parenting to the point where it is parenting and marriage so aloof that you
know.. .lack of care and concern.. .that people really dont care anymore.
Barriers to Solving the Problem
Respondents identified several barriers to solving the complex issue of meth
production on public land. Interviewees from the Forest Service, hazardous material
clean up team and a former meth producer responded with the following issues:
There are so many meth labs the budget for the agencies is running out.
(We) may have to tap into other resources. (Forest Service employee).
Budget and manpower is the biggest thing that faces us. Also,
unawareness, there are so many acres, its not seen as a problem. (Forest
Service employee).
It doesnt seem like the punishment is stringent.. .seems like theyre
getting off easy and weve dealt with a lot of repeat offenders.
(Hazardous Material worker).
39


Yeah, weve gone to one guys (meth producer) house over seven
different times. (Hazardous Material worker).
The biggest barrier is regulating it, everything that goes into meth is so
easy to obtain and its a dangerous process and people do it on order to
make fast money. (Hazardous Material worker).
(From the) regulatory side of it, if they get busted and only spend a
couple of days in jail, then theyre out again and I figure thats the risk
theyre willing to take. (Hazardous Material worker).
Theyre (legal system) forcing them back into the lifestyle they got no
other option, cant get a job. They get out of jail and have no money, what
are they going to do? They fall right back into the same.. .some are going
to abuse that, manipulate, but I think the majority of them do want
therapy. (Former meth producer).
Solutions to the Problem
Interviewees from the Bureau of Land Management, CBI (Colorado Bureau of
Investigations), former meth producer, and representatives from a hazardous material
clean up company had many suggestions for solutions to the problem of
methamphetamine lab production. The suggestions included:
40


Training of law enforcement and public workers. (Bureau of Land
Management employee).
Research, education of people the public, aggressive law enforcement,
educating the producers of the precursor chemicals. (Bureau of Land
Management Employee).
Society needs to understand, counsel, and educate people. (Bureau of
Land Management employee).
If cookers post bond, have them go to treatment immediately. (Colorado
Bureau of Investigations employee).
Tougher laws, tougher consequences, education, more park rangers,
prevention. (Former meth producer).
Having state legislature look at things, they have proposed regulation out
there and are modeling it after other states. (Forest Service Employee).
Other Drug Activity on Public Land
Methamphetamine is not the only drug that is produced on public land. Many
references were made to there always being a problem with marijuana on public land.
A Bureau of Land Management employee stated I first encountered meth labs on
41


public land back in 1992,1 go back to 1987 with other drug issues marijuana. A
forest service employee remarked Weve always had a marijuana problem.
Other Illegal Activity on Public Land
Other crimes and illegal activity are also committed on public land. Few
references to this problem were identified in the interviews.
42


CHAPTER 5
COMPARISONS ACROSS DATA SETS
Two data sets were studied for the purpose of answering one of the guiding
questions do both the popular press and information from key stakeholders present
the effects of methamphetamine labs on the environment and our society
congruently?
To compare the number of times the themes were mentioned in both data sets,
I tallied the number of mentions of the themes in the newspaper article texts and the
interview texts. Taking into consideration that the samples were not balanced in size
(media =19 and interviews = 14), a directional difference of +5 was added to the
interview numbers so the media =19 and the interviews =19. The differences or
similarities in the tallies were assessed as follows: A tally range of 0-5, indicated that
there was no difference between the medias portrayal of the theme and the
interviewees portrayal of the theme. The tally range of 6-10 indicated there was
some difference in the portrayal of issues. A tally range of 11-30 indicated a very
different portrayal of the themes.
The following table compares the similarities or differences in the mentions of
the themes between the media and interviews with key stakeholders.
43


Table 5.1 Tally of Mentions of Themes in the Text; A Comparison
Theme Media Analysis n=19 Number of times theme was mentioned Interviews n=14 Number of times theme was mentioned Similarities or differences in the number of times theme was mentioned in the media and interviews
Seriousness of the Problem 48 20 (+5) 23 = Very Different
Chemicals and Ingredients 39 38 (+5) 4 = No Difference
Public Health Risks and Safety Issues 34 57 (+5) 28 = Very Different
Damage to Public Land 27 45 (+5) 23 = Very Different
Damage to Wildlife 2 8 (+5) 11 = Very Different
Responsibility for Clean Up and Clean Up Costs 28 23 (+5) 0 = No Difference
Cause for Increase 30 32 (+5) 7 = Somewhat Different
Who or What to Blame 9 15 (+5) 11= Very Different
Barriers to Solving the Problem 29 36 (+5) 12 = Very Different
Solutions to the Problem 21 41 (+5) 25 = Very Different
Other Drug Activity 8 2 (+5) 1 = No Difference
Other Illegal Activity 16 0 (+5) 11= Very Different
44


Discussion Summary of Table 5.1
Seriousness of the Problem
The representation of the seriousness of methamphetamine production on
public land was very different between the media and interviewees. The media
presented the problem much more often than the interviewees. Content mentioned by
both the media and the interviewees included the increase of meth production on
public land and gave examples of how easily the problem could get out of control.
Chemicals and Ingredients
The interviews with key stakeholders and newspapers both identified many
different chemicals used to produce methamphetamine; there was no difference in the
representation. The content from both of the representations included many examples
of chemicals used in meth production and their hazardous properties.
Public Health Risks and Safety Issues
The portrayal of public health risks and safety issues between the media and
interviews was very different. Interviewees addressed this issue much more than the
media. The content in both the media and the interviews was similar and addressed
the public health risks and safety issues of meth lab by-products and public and
employee contacts and injuries.
45


Damage to Public Land
Damage to public land caused by methamphetamine production was presented
very differently between the media and interviews. Interviewees addressed this issue
more than the media. Content was similar as mentions included damaged foliage and
trees, and soil and waterway contamination.
Damage to Wildlife
The issue of wildlife damage mentioned by the media and interviews was very
different it was addressed more often in the interviews. Content from the media and
the interviews were often hypothetical because it was difficult to determine the exact
cause of death or injuries of the wildlife.
Responsibility for Clean Up and Clean Up Costs
There was no difference between the media and interview representations of
who is responsible for meth waste clean up and costs. The content was similar, both
mentioned law enforcement and hazardous material companies were responsible for
clean up, and taxpayers and law enforcement were responsible for clean up costs.
Cause for Increase of Meth Labs on Public Land
There was some difference between the portrayal of the cause for the increase
of the problem of meth production on public land; both the media and the interviews
addressed this issue. Both identified causes for increases in the problem to be lack of
46


personnel, lack of funds, and more labs are being discovered in the cities so producers
are moving to more discreet locations like public land.
Who or What is to Blame for the Problem
The representations of who or what was to blame for the increase of meth
production on public land were very different. Interviewees addressed this problem
more than the media. Content was similar, the media and the interviewees identified
addicts and meth producers to blame and also minimal criminal justice penalties for
meth producers.
Barriers to Solving the Problem
The difference between the medias portrayal and the interviewees portrayal
of barriers to solving the problem of meth labs on public land was very different.
Interviewees addressed the issue more than the media. Content was similar, both
addressed public unawareness of the problem and lack of law enforcement manpower
on public land because of the vastness of the land.
Solutions to the Problem
The representation of solutions to the problem of meth labs on public land was
addressed very differently between the media and the interviewees. The interviewees
addressed the issue more than the media. Solutions by the media and the
interviewees were similar, identifying solutions such as educating the public
47


regarding this problem, more law enforcement officers needed on public land, and
limiting the sales of pre-cursor ingredients.
Other Drug Activity on Public Land
There was no difference in the portrayal of other drug activity on public land
between the popular press and the interviewees. This was an emergent theme not
originally asked in the semi-structured interview. The content was the same both
addressed the problem of marijuana being grown on public land.
Other Illegal Activity on Public Land
The issue of other illegal activity on public land was addressed very
differently between the media and the interviews. The media addressed the issue, but
the interviewees did not identify the issue at all. This was an emergent theme not
originally asked in the semi-structured interview. Illegal activity on public land
mentioned by the media included litter dumping, theft of forest products, and off road
four wheel driving.
Summary In summary, the media addressed the seriousness of the problem
and other illegal activity on public land more than the interviews. The interviews
addressed public health risks and safety issues, damage to public land, damage to
wildlife, who or what is to blame for the problem, barriers to solving the problem, and
solutions to the problems more than the media. Some difference between the media
and interviews representations of the issues was the cause for the increase of the
48


problem. Issues that were addressed congruently by the media and interviewees were
chemicals and ingredients, responsibility for clean up and clean up costs, and other
drug activity on public land.
49


CHAPTER 6
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Methamphetamine production and its impact on public land is a very
complicated problem. Not only is methamphetamine a powerful and highly addictive
drug that keeps gaining popularity in our society, but the production of this drug also
creates many issues. Methamphetamine production and its volatile and hazardous by-
products devastate forests and public land and put public land employees and public
land users at risk. The motivating factor for conducting research on this issue was to
raise public awareness that this is a serious problem that can potentially become out
of control. The popular press has introduced us to this problem and interviews with
key stakeholders have confirmed the issues of concern.
Discussion
The following key questions guided this inquiry. 1) How do illicit
methamphetamine laboratories (labs) impact public land? Meth labs impact public
land in many ways. The environmental contamination to soil, waterways and wildlife
is a serious problem. The encounters that public land employees and land users have
with meth labs, meth producers, or the hazardous by-product left over from meth
production causes many problems. 2) Do both the popular press and information from
50


key stakeholders present the effects of methamphetamine labs on the environment
and our society congruently? Issues that were addressed congruently by the media
and interviewees were chemicals and ingredients, responsibility for clean up and
clean up costs, and other drug activity on public land. Do interviews with individuals
who have experienced problems associated with methamphetamine production add to
our understanding of the hazards, impact, and solutions? Interviews with key
stakeholders added additional insight to the issues of public health and safety risks of
meth production on public land, environmental damage to public land, damage to
wildlife, who or what is to blame for the problem, barriers to solving the problem, and
solutions to the problems associated with meth production on public land.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Research on meth production on public land is important because it is a newly
discovered and rapidly expanding problem. Other states that are dealing with this
problem currently have the potential to model regulations and offer solutions for the
state of Colorado to implement. The Washington State Department of Health offers a
manual that provides local health officials, property owners, and contractors with
uniform procedures and standards for reducing the contamination at illegal
manufacturing sites (Kittle, 1996). Preventative measures in Boise, Idaho, as well as
other U.S. cities, include an outreach program to owners and managers of rental
property that combines education and code enforcement. Boise city officials train
51


property managers on ways to screen prospective tenants and to monitor the
environment for signs of illicit activities, such as manufacturing and storing
methamphetamine and its precursor chemicals and by-products (Colthurst, 2001).
There are many solutions that need to be addressed to potentially lead to the
reduction of methamphetamine production on public land. These solutions include
research in the areas of:
Public employees risk factors and training needs
Public health effects of meth labs on public land
The environmental impact on soil, waterways, and wildlife.
Other solutions include:
Increase the prevention of using drugs meth producers only supply what
our society demands of them.
Increase public awareness of methamphetamine impact on public land and
educating the public land users can help to minimize this complex
problem.
Training and educating public land employees.
Legal controls of pre-cursor chemicals.
52


Consistent protocols developed for hazmat waste removal.
Testing of waterways and soil of contaminated areas.
More law enforcement on public lands.
Pamphlets to educate the public land users.
More treatment options vs. incarceration.
Meth producers could be held responsible for damage and costs of meth
clean up paid through their restitution.
Appropriate safety equipment for employees who may encounter meth
labs on public land.
More funding from the government to intervene with the many issues
associated with meth labs on public land.
53


Public awareness of this problem would help to offer new solutions to help reduce
methamphetamine production on public land. Public land users could be educated
WARNING!
Illegal drug manufacturing has become an increasingly serious
problem on public land in recent years, and the toxic litter has
become a hazard to the public. For your safety:
1. ) Do not pick up litter. It may be contaminated with chemicals
that can be harmful or even fatal to animals or humans.
2. ) Do not open abandoned containers (such as backpacks,
coolers, or jars).
If you see suspicious activity or encounter litter, please contact
Figure 6.1
Public Land User Warning Sign
about meth labs on public land through the media, educational literature or pamphlets
available through public land organizations. Warning signs at hiking trail heads and
campgrounds would be helpful and might read something like this:
An interviewee from the Bureau of Land Management stated:
The public should look beyond the trees, the flora, the fauna if the
public sees suspicious activity they should let us (public land law
enforcement) know. Thats the best source the public to keep their
eyes and ears open. It will benefit all of us.
54


Appendix
CONSENTS, INTERVIEW GUIDE, THEMES AND CODES
55


A. SUBJECT CONSENT
Emma Maki B.A. CACIII
Master of Social Science Candidate
University of Colorado at Denver
Denver, CO. 80223
(303) 980-4102
Thesis Title: The Impact of Methamphetamine Labs On Public Land:
Representations Of The Problem
Principal Investigator: Emma Maki
Subject Consent
September 1, 2002 Version 2
As a graduate student and citizen, I want to understand how
methamphetamine labs impact public land in Colorado and other places in the
western United States. I have chosen this research topic for my thesis as a Masters
degree candidate. My thesis will attempt to address the many problems associated
with methamphetamine production, which affect different areas within our society.
Because of meth production and distribution, issues to address are the environmental
impact of the labs, which include but are not limited to hazardous waste removal and
costs, other monetary issues, public health concerns, and public policy. For the
purpose of this thesis project, I define the natural environment as Federal, State,
(public) and privately owned land.
The focus of this study is to review the medias representation of
methamphetamine labs through newspaper articles, and to compare that information
with data collected from interviews conducted with individuals who work the
frontline or have experience with methamphetamine labs and/or their impact. I will
also review literature from journal articles and newspaper articles.
I would like to ask you to help me with this research topic. You will be
interviewed by the principal investigator of this study who will be using a structured
interview guide. The interview will take about an hour. The interview will be
audiotaped and handwritten field notes will be taken. I will also ask you if you have
any photographs of meth labs, damaged areas, or clean up activities in public
land/rural areas, that I may use in my thesis and future presentations with your
56


permission. Your name will be kept confidential on the audiotape, field notes, any
submitted photographs, and in the final paper.
Although there are no direct benefits to subjects participating in the study,
there could be potential global and state benefits. The data collected in the study
could aid in greater public awareness of problems associated with methamphetamine
iabs, and in turn could lead to the future development of
education/intervention/prevention programs for the general public and governmental
agencies to help lead to the reduction of this problem.
During the interview, I will be happy to answer any questions you may have
unless for some reason doing so unnecessarily compromises the studys methodology.
There are only minor foreseeable risks that may occur as a result of your participation
in the research project. Your agency affiliation may be disclosed in the final thesis
which could possibly cause some social embarrassment. There is some risk that
there might be an inadvertent violation of confidentiality. Your participation is
completely voluntary and you may choose not to answer any questions that you are
not comfortable with answering. You may withdraw from the interview anytime you
wish.
If you have any questions, concerns, or comments about this research topic,
you may contact the principal investigator Emma Maki at (303) 980-4102. Any
questions related to rights as a research subject may be directed to the Office of
Academic Affairs, CU Denver Building, Suite 700, (303) 556-2550. If you
understand and agree to the above mentioned study and you give your permission to
participate in the interview, please sign below. A signed copy of the consent form
will be given to you immediately.
1, the undersigned, understand the above explanations and give my consent to
participate in the research study.
Signature:___________________________________________Date:
Witness:_____________________________________________Date:
(Principal Investigator)
Thank you for your time and participation.
57


B. METH LAB FOCUS GROUP CONFIDENTIALITY STATEMENT
I hope to gain knowledge about the impact of methamphetamine labs on
public land, causes of the problem, and potential solutions to the problem, by asking
various people about their own experiences and opinions.
In deciding to all discuss meth lab issues in a group setting, there is a slightly
greater risk that your views would become known. I will do all that I can to maintain
confidentiality and would like to remind all of you that what is said today in this
discussion should not be shared with others.
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C. INTERVIEW GUIDE
The Impact of Methamphetamine Labs on
Public Land: Representations of the Problem
Researcher: Emma Maki
University of Colorado at Denver
(303) 980-4102; Emma.Maki@uchsc.edu
Faculty advisor: Prof. Kitty Corbett
University of Colorado at Denver
(303) 556-2506; kcorbett@carbon.cudenver.edu
INTERVIEW GUIDE
I hope to gain knowledge about the impact of methamphetamine labs on public land,
causes of the problem, and potential solutions to the problem, by asking various
people about their own experiences and opinions.
Have read and signed consent form____
Agreed to be audio taped_____
Demographic Information:
Lets start with some background information:
Gender: M F
What year were you bom?___________
1. Tell me about your occupation. (Or tell me about your personal experience
with methamphetamine labs). [ WRITE IN COMMENTS NEXT TO
CHECKLIST]
_____DEA
_____EPA
_____Forest Service
Drug Task Force
_____Law Enforcement
_____Fire Department
59


______Public Health Department
______Personal Experience
______Land Owner
______Other (describe)____________________________
2. How long has your job involved work with meth labs? (Or how much
experience have you had with meth labs?)
3. As you know, Im interested in the impact of meth production on public land,
which includes rural, state, and federal areas. In general, how serious of a
problem do you think methamphetamine production is for rural areas and the
natural environment?
4. Have you personally seen any damage to public land that was caused by meth
production? If yes, what?
5. Do you think meth labs in the natural environment pose a risk to peoples
health? If so, how?
6. What types of chemicals or ingredients have you come across while handling
meth labs on public land?
7. And have you been worried about your own safety? If yes, how?
8. Have you personally seen or are you aware of any damage to wildlife in the
natural environment that was caused by meth production? If yes, what?
9. In the areas where you have worked, who has been responsible for cleaning up
methamphetamine labs that are found in rural and public land areas?
10. Do you have an idea how much meth lab cleanup costs on public land? Who
pays for it?
11. What do you think is the cause of the increase in meth production in the
natural environment in recent years?
12. Do you think there is anyone to blame for this problem? If so, who?
13. What do you believe is the solution to the problem?
14. What are the main barriers to solving the problem?
60


15. What public policies or laws would be helpful or are helpful in handling the
meth problem on public land and rural areas?
16. In summary, what do you consider to be the biggest dangers and risks
associated with methamphetamine production on public land?
17. One last question: What else would you like to share that you think is
important regarding meth labs and the natural environment?
** One last thing if you have any photographs of meth labs or damaged areas, or
clean up activities in rural/wilderness areas, I would appreciate getting a copy of
them, and asking for permission to use them in my thesis and future presentations.
Thank you very much for your time and for participating in this interview.
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D. THEMES AND CODES
SOP; SERIOUSNESS OF THE PROBLEM
- drug related crime burden for public, public employees
deaths (workers, public land users, producers)
closure of federal, state or national land
amount of byproduct waste produced
increase of meth production on public land
CH & I; CHEMICALS AND INGREDIENTS RISK
specific chemicals referenced (anhydrous ammonia, ether, etc.)
- byproducts left after the cook
- toxic, hazardous material
- unknown chemicals
PHR &SI; PUBLIC HEALTH RISK AND SAFETY ISSUES
- workers treated for injuries
- booby traps on public land
- violent encounters with producers or users
- manufacturing on campgrounds and campsites
- public septic system and sewer damage
children and adults at risk from hazardous byproducts
DPL; DAMAGE TO PUBLIC LAND
- fire
cutting down trees
- burying waste
soil contamination
- water contamination
foliage and vegetation contamination
DTW; DAMAGE TO WILDLIFE
dead birds, animals, fish
- toxic byproducts and animal encounters
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RCL & RCLCOST; RESPONSIBILITY FOR CLEAN UP AND CLEAN UP COSTS
- law enforcement
- hazardous material companies
- property owners
taxpayers
- monetary costs
CAUSE INC; CAUSE FOR INCREASE
- undetectable
- vastness of public lands
addictive qualities of meth
- budget problems
- cracking down on meth labs in the city
- other
BLAME; WHO OR WHAT TO BLAME
- addicts
- producers
- government
society
BSOLPR; BARRIERS TO SOLVING THE PROBLEM
- lack of funding
- public unaware
staff limitations
- light penalties
lack of training
SOLPR; SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEM
- treatment
- tougher penalties
- proper training for workers
education
- prevention
aggressive law enforcement
government funding
ODA; OTHER DRUG ACTIVITY
- marijuana grown, cultivated, had to be eradicated
dealing
other drugs
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OIA; OTHER ILLEGAL ACTIVITY
trash dumping/abandoned vehicles
forest products theft (fossils, timber)
off road 4-wheeling
other criminal activity
64


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