An RCMP officer leaves the property under investigation by the Clandestine Lab Team on Thursday, Aug. 6. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

An RCMP officer leaves the property under investigation by the Clandestine Lab Team on Thursday, Aug. 6. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Township urges residents to call police about suspected drug labs

Explosions, toxic fumes, and environmental damage are threats of the secret labs

  • Aug. 19, 2020 12:00 a.m.

Langley Township is sounding the warning about the hazards clandestine drug labs pose to safety, drinking water, and the environment.

On Aug. 6, dozens of local RCMP and the Clandestine Lab Enforcement and Response (CLEAR) team descended on a five-acre site in the 24800 block of 21B Avenue where they found a suspected drug lab, including stores of suspected precursor chemicals.

The chemicals were consistent with the manufacture of fentanyl, a highly potent and potentially lethal opioid.

“These illegal operations are potentially dangerous to the surrounding community, especially on farmlands where properties are on well water, and most – if not all – are on septic systems,” said Bill Storie, the Township’s senior advisor to council. “The improper disposal of chemicals on the property could have an adverse effect on the ground water and aquifers of neighbouring properties.”

In fact, a suspected leak from an earlier drug lab in Langley Township caused more than a year of worry for neighbours until it was ordered cleaned up.

The site in the 20600 block of 72nd Avenue was raided by police on April 24, 2014. One man was later convicted of several offences related to the investigation.

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On May 5, 2015, Langley MLA and then-environment minister Mary Polak announced the site had been determined to be a “high-risk contaminated site” and may have contaminated three neighbouring sites.

Local residents spent months complaining to any and all authorities that there had been strange smells coming from the lab before the raid, along with peculiar sludge in local ditches, dead koi in back yard ponds, and dead trees and bushes near the site.

Storie said people need to report possible clandestine labs.

“People need to know what the harm could potentially be and take action if they see something that doesn’t seem right,” Storie said.

In addition to contamination, there are risks of fires, explosions, and toxic fumes, said Storie.

At the 21B Avenue site, the Township and RCMP are working with Environment Canada to clean up damage.

Signs people should watch for include:

• The presence of industrial/commercial equipment and chemicals on residential properties

• Chemical and/or noxious odours emanating from a property

• The presence of a large amount of solvents that can easily be purchased from local hardware stores

• Unusual security precautions such as extremely high fences, Beware of Dog signs, and security cameras

• Visitors coming to the property late at night when it is easy to be undetected

• Residential garbage not being left curbside on garbage days and being driven off-site

“Each of these items in isolation may be legitimately explained,” said Sgt. Bobby Cheung, NCO in charge of the Langley RCMP’s Drug Section, “however the combination of these indicators together may indicate that something untoward may be occurring, at which point the police should be contacted to investigate.”

Anyone who notices such suspicious activity should contact the Langley RCMP at 604-532-3200.

“Monitor your property, monitor your neighbours’ properties, and pay attention for foul odours,” Storie said. “These operations pose such a danger to the community. We all need to do our part. Don’t turn a blind eye.”

Langley Advance Times