ROCKINGHAM — While the number of methamphetamine labs has been on the decline in Richmond County and across North Carolina, police have discovered evidence of at least two so far this year.
Narcotics officers with the Rockingham Police Department recently received information that someone living at 108 Colonial Drive was cooking meth, according to a press release issued Wednesday.
After speaking with the home’s owner, police say RPD investigators — along with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and N.C. State Bureau of Investigation — conducted a search, leading to the arrest of Allen Cody Rishel on Friday. (Online court records have his first name spelled as “Alan.”)
Rishel is charged with three counts of possession of a precursor with intent to manufacture meth, and one count each of possession of methamphetamine, manufacturing methamphetamine and maintaining a vehicle, dwelling or place for a controlled substance.
Rishel was booked into the Richmond County Jail under a $50,000 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 22.
Police did not give a list of the precursors — which include psuedoephedrine, sulfuric acid — or amount of meth found. The search and arrest warrants were not available at the Richmond County Clerk of Superior Court’s Office on Wednesday.
Records show Rishel has no other pending charges or past criminal convictions in the state.
All defendants facing criminal charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The Rockingham Police Department received a call just before 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18 regarding suspicious activity at a house on Aslington Street from a former resident who knew the residence to be vacant, according to Chief Billy Kelly.
Inside, detectives found evidence of what Kelly called a methamphetamine disposal site, with several items used to make the caustic cocktail. The lab was not active and Kelly did not want to elaborate on the specific evidence items as the investigation was ongoing.
That investigation was the third state agents had responded to in 2018, according to spokesperson Patty McQuillan.
The number of meth labs across the state fell by more than 50 percent in the past two years in 2017, after peaking at 561 in 2013.
Because meth was becoming a growing problem, the sheriff’s office and the SBI initiated a federal meth conspiracy investigation with the U.S. Attorney’s office in 2014.
“That investigation has led to the federal indictment and arrest of 65 individuals in and around Richmond County who are involved in domestic methamphetamine production,” SBI Special Agent Kelly Page said last month.
State law requires that all properties involved in the manufacturing of meth be cleaned prior to re-occupancy.
“This stuff is very dangerous,” Detective T. Rucker of the sheriff’s office told the Daily Journal in 2015. “Nobody needs to be around that mess.”
According to a fact sheet from the Occupational & Environmental Epidemiology Branch of the N.C. Division of Public Health, cooking meth creates a variety of hazards including toxic vapors and spills, fires and explosions. The drug also poses an environmental hazard, as up to 5 pounds of toxic waste is created when meth is made in a lab, which pollutes the surrounding land and water when dumped.
Although the SBI collects most of the ingredients, supplies and product as evidence, smaller amounts of the drug and hazardous chemical residues may remain and may have contaminated surfaces, drains, sinks, ventilation systems and absorbent materials such as couches, carpets, curtains and beds.
Local health departments are responsible for overseeing the decontamination process.
Once the health department is informed of a meth-involved home, officials contact the property owner, who is ultimately responsible for the cleanup. In most cases, county Health Director Tommy Jarrell said, they are rental properties.
Making a residence liveable again involves cleaning to remove chemical residues, debris and possibly furnishings and appliances, according the state fact sheet.
Property owners can conduct the decontamination process, but are encouraged to use a trained cleanup contractor. It may also be more cost-effective to just dispose of some items rather than attempt to clean them.
After receiving and reviewing the decontamination documents provided to them by the property owner, local health departments are required to keep them on file for three years.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]