JESSUP -- Our state's drug problem is affecting a place you might not expect -- the side of our highways.
Police say they are finding remnants of methamphetamine labs on the side of the road, prompting state troopers to train PennDOT on how to identify the dangerous materials.
This is the time of the year when you'll see a lot of PennDOT road crews out picking up trash and clearing out the side of the highways ahead of the winter season.
On Friday, PennDOT workers received special training on how to identify meth labs. State police say this is where they are finding them these days.
Rebecca Patrick from the state police crime labs leads a lot of training for police and firefighters. This was a new class of students. PennDOT foremen gathered at the 911 Center in Jessup to learn about how to identify a meth lab.
"We're seeing them be a lot more mobile, in vehicles, in backpacks, people doing it out in the woods, all that kind of stuff," Patrick explained. "And when people discard it, a lot of times they're just dumping it wherever."
So, these guys could be the first to spot the remainders of a meth lab. If PennDOT can identify them they can help police, and also save themselves from potential injury.
State police are teaching PennDOT to look for any combination of ordinary household items that could just look like ordinary trash out on the side of the road. There are a lot of PennDOT crews out picking up trash this time of year.
"It's dangerous just for the traffic alone, just being out there, but now you have another added risk, it makes it more dangerous," said PennDOT equipment operator Bob Beadle.
PennDOT says none of its employees has been hurt after finding meth-making materials but those materials can cause serious burns. Chances are, crews have picked them up and not even known what they are.
"Some of those guys are experienced, they know. Some of the guys in there are probably thinking they're pretty lucky today that something worse hasn't happened to them," said PennDOT environmental manager Rocco DePietro.
PennDOT required its foremen in northeastern Pennsylvania to take the training in Lackawanna County on Friday.
State police say they've also started reaching out to volunteer groups that help clean up highways. They, too, could be at risk.