July 22, 2015 From The Daily News of Newburyport, Newburyport, MA
SEABROOK — Local police will soon safely be able to destroy the hundreds of pounds of drugs confiscated or collected as the department works to combat the selling and using of illegal drugs in the community.
Selectmen approved a request by police Acting Chief Michael Gallagher to purchase an incinerator that will burn to harmless carbon ash the illegal drugs confiscated during arrests.
The incinerator will also destroy the unused prescription drugs residents dispose of in the police station drop-off box, 24/7, with no questions asked. This first in the state program begun in 2009 by Gallagher while a detective sergeant has been more successful than ever imagined, he said, and has collected hundreds of pounds of unused prescription drugs, getting them out of home medicine cabinets and keeping them from being diverted for illegal use.
The incinerator recommended by Gallagher is the “Drug Terminator,” a 129-pound unit costing $4,250, the least expensive of all high-temperature furnaces researched by Detective Daniel Lawrence. The unit can burn up to 50 pounds of drugs an hour, with minimal residue, emissions, odor or smoke, Gallagher said, and has approval from the Environment Protection Agency when used by law enforcement.
The money used to make the purchase isn’t coming from taxpayers’ pockets. Gallagher recommended the money come from the department’s drug forfeiture fund. When police make an arrest related to the selling of illegal drugs, the department is allowed to keep a share of money seized as the profits from the illegal drug trade. He estimated that currently the department has close to $10,000 in its drug forfeiture fund, well over the amount needed to purchase the equipment.
The Drug Terminator is used by a number of Granite State communities, including Conway, Derry, Lee, Londonderry and Salem, according to Lawrence’s report.
Gallagher said the problem of how to eliminate the department’s growing inventory of controlled drugs became an expensive problem over the years, as free options to get rid of them legally dwindled. Years ago, an area crematorium incinerated Seabrook’s controlled drug cache for free, but has since stopped the programs.
The federal Drug Enforcement Agency used to take all of Seabrook’s illegal drugs following its own drug drop-off programs run twice a year, Gallagher said, but the DEA has eliminated that program as well.
The only option remaining is that of Wheeelabrator Technologies, a Penacook, N.H., company that will burn seized drugs for a $50 fee, plus a required “petition for destruction of drugs” from Superior Court. But logistics are problematic, Gallagher said.
The facility is a 90-minute drive from Seabrook, requiring two police officers to accompany the drugs. The entire process can keep the officers out of town for from four to six hours, at a cost of up to $920 a year, according to Lawrence’s figures.