CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Law enforcement officials describe the meth problem in the Carolinas as an "epidemic."
The number of meth labs found in South Carolina has nearly tripled since 2007. According to data provided by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), 302 labs were discovered from January 1, 2012 to July 1, 2012.
According to the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), South Carolina is now one of the top 10 meth manufacturing states in the nation. Meth manufacturing in South Carolina has evolved from the discovery of one-pot labs here and there to shake and bake labs found in homes, cars and abandoned buildings.
"Unfortunately, I report to you today that South Carolina is grappling with this meth lab epidemic in ways which we never could have imagined," SLED investigator Lt. Donald "Max" Dorsey told members of Congress Tuesday.
Dorsey appeared before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to request help from the federal government.
In his testimony, Dorsey mentioned a meth bust in Spartanburg that happened in March. In that bust, Dorsey said, children were present while meth was cooked, and at one point, investigators believe a three-year-old assisted in the manufacturing of the drug.Reported Meth Lab incidents in SC200726200856200999201012520112672012 (Jan-July 1)302
Dorsey also cited a massive apartment fire in Goose Creek, S.C. in which three people were killed. While investigators have yet to release a cause of the fire that took place in May, Dorsey said it is obvious the meth lab found was a contributing factor to the blaze.
The problem, Dorsey argued, is meth manufacturers knowing how to work around laws limiting the purchase of EPH/PSE products used to cook the drug.
"To seek more EPH/PSE for additional methamphetamine production, manufacturers employ individuals to travel to retailers to purchase their legal limits. Manufacturers then receive the EPH/PSE from the multiple people they have employed and produce more methamphetamine from the additional EPH/PSE they have accumulated from the 'smurfers,'" Dorsey said. "Smurfing is a common practice seen by law enforcement officers throughout South Carolina and is indicative of large -scale manufacturing organizations with the intent of distributing their product after manufacturing."
Despite legislation to limit the production of meth, production in South Carolina has increased. Dorsey argues that the only way to combat the issue is to launch legislation similar to that found in Oregon and Mississippi - legislation that would require a prescription for the purchase of any product containing ephedrive and/or pseudoephedrine.
"If we are serious about combating domestic meth production, Congress must pass legislation returning ephedrine and pseudoephedrine to prescription only," Dorsey said.