Cortland police investigating meth lab explosion on Madison Avenue

CORTLAND — A small, one-pot meth lab exploded Saturday afternoon, blowing an apartment’s bathroom door off its hinges at 143 Madison Avenue, according to city officials.

None of the residents in the apartments of the multi-family home were injured, although some of the residences were occupied at the time, said city police Lt. Michael Strangeway. City firefighters were called to the apartment at 12:25 p.m. for the explosion, said fire department Capt. Lee Price, but the explosion did not result in a fire.

The one-pot meth lab — a drug production process that frequently uses a plastic soda bottle to create methamphetamine — was in the bathroom of the apartment, Strangeway said.

“The vessel failed and the result was a small explosion,” Strangeway said. “It blew the bathroom door off its hinges.”

A 63-year-old was asleep in the apartment with the meth lab when it exploded, but was not hurt, Strangeway said. The 63-year-old is not a suspect in the case, Strangeway said, adding the police investigation is ongoing.

Other apartments in the four or five unit building were occupied when the explosion went off, but the people inside were also uninjured, he said.

The New York State Police Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team responded to clean up the apartment and meth lab using hazmat suits, Price said.

The city fire department stood by for three hours as the CCERT team worked, in case an officer should need medical support and to defend against a possible fire, he said.

“As you know, some of these labs, there’s a highly flammable component to the process,” Price said.

Methamphetamine’s ingredients are extremely toxic and flammable, making meth very dangerous to produce.

“The ignitable, corrosive, and toxic nature of the chemicals used to produce meth can cause fires, produce toxic vapors, and damage the environment,” notes the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration in a publication entitled “Tips for Teens: Methamphetamine.”

In addition to pseudoephedrine, an ingredient found in cold medicine and the active ingredient in meth, the drug is composed of a litany of toxic chemicals. Meth labs often include hydrochloric acid, a corrosive that completely dissolves flesh, as well as lye, another chemical used to dissolve roadkill, according to The Meth Project, a public-service messaging campaign. Other ingredients include drain cleaner’s sulfuric acid and anhydrous ammonia, a toxic gas listed as a chemical warfare agent that can also be used in the production of some bombs.

The police investigation is continuing and no arrest was yet made as of Saturday evening, said Strangeway.