- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

An apparent meth lab was discovered by law enforcement Monday afternoon beneath the parking lot of a Walmart in western New York.

Captain Scott Chamberlain of the Amherst Police Department said one of his officers was doing routine patrol work when they came across a culvert that led to an area beneath a local Walmart.

“They call it ‘random preventative patrol.’ The guys will go out, and they just patrol the area. If they see something they want to check out, they check it out. It’s everyday, all day long — that’s what the officers do,” the captain told Time Warner Cable.

Hazmat crews and firefighters from multiple agencies were soon deployed to the scene and recovered several items indicative of a meth lab after being lowered through a manhole in the parking lot, investigators said.

“We always take precautions because of the chemicals … The chemicals are highly volatile,” Detective Lt. JoAnn DiNoto of the Amherst Police narcotics unit told The Buffalo News.

Among the materials collected from the scene were various aerosol spray cans, chemicals, plastic bottles, jars of clear liquid and a substance that police believed to be methamphetamine.

Investigators analyzed the recovered materials at the scene and determined Tuesday that the lab was no longer in use, but so far have been unable to figure out how long ago it had been active and by whom.

The chemicals did not pose a danger to the local water supply or Walmart shoppers, Lt. DiNoto added.

“They assessed it, they realized it wasn’t an active cook, it was an old lab. So, it was remediation time. The dangers to the public at that point were minimalized,” Maj. Steven Nigrelli of the New York State Police told Time Warner Cable.

According to Sgt. Doug Wildermuth of the State Police Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team, however, the meth lab could have potentially caused major health problems or even death.

“It can be fatal if inhaled enough,” he told The Buffalo News.

Police have not identified any potential suspects, but said they plan on reviewing surveillance footage recorded by Walmart’s cameras to see if they can find evidence of anyone leaving or entering the culvert that led to the crime scene.

Area residents, meanwhile, expressed disbelief upon learning that the suburban Buffalo shopping center was apparently sitting atop an underground meth lab.

“I seen men suited up, and I didn’t know if somebody got hurt or, you know, I didn’t know. And then I was talking to somebody, and they said it was a meth lab. I’m like a meth lab? In Walmart’s parking lot? You know, that’s crazy,” Marie Jamieson of nearby Kenmore told WGRZ News.

“It’s a concern I mean it’s unbelievable in this area, this isn’t a bad area,” local man Steve Harding told WIVB News. “This isn’t the kind of thing you’d expect in a place like this, that’s the bottom line.”

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