GarCo sheriff issues warning about ‘river bottles’

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

The discovery of several duct tape-wrapped bottles in the Roaring Fork River near Basalt suspected in the manufacturing of methamphetamine has prompted a tri-county warning from law enforcement officials.

“Over the past week, residents of Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties have encountered an influx of bottles turning up on river banks,” according to an alert from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. “The bottles are similar in size to a water bottle, but are easily recognizable as they have all been mostly encapsulated in duct tape.”

Authorities suspect the bottles were used in what’s known as the cold-cook method of making methamphetamine. Samples have been taken from several bottles and shipped to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for testing.

Basalt police Sgt. Joe Gasper said this week that two teenage girls found two of the suspicious bottles last Thursday under the 7-Eleven bridge, which spans the Roaring Fork River in Basalt.

They were found in the exact place where several more bottles were discovered last month. The Basalt Fire Department was enlisted Friday to recover the containers.

“They were all submerged. We recovered nine submerged,” Gasper said.

Further inspection of the Roaring Fork River through Basalt produced another nine of the bottles downstream of the Midland Avenue bridge, according to Gasper. Another bottle was discovered farther downriver in Garfield County Sheriff’s Office’s jurisdiction.

All 19 of the bottles in the latest sweep matched the style of 35 bottles recovered by authorities in the earlier recovery efforts. All were extensively wrapped in duct tape.

Gasper said authorities have pulled a total of 54 bottles from the river. He estimated that 10 others were removed by fishermen or other people who found them, then later reported to authorities.

Gasper said it appeared the latest bottles discovered by the 7-Eleven bridge Thursday were recently dumped there rather than left over from the earlier dumping. He said it was a “brazen act” by someone to dump them in the same place due to the interest by law enforcement officials. However, he admitted that it is difficult to nail down who dumped the bottles.

“Anyone could have done it,” Gasper said. “It’s easy access from Highway 82.”

He said similarities in the bottles discovered in January and those discovered last week indicate to law enforcement officials that the same people are producing them. Why the bottles are ending up in the river is the mystery, he said.

The working theory is the bottles contain the waste product from drug making, he said. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation hasn’t completed testing of the contents in the original bottles yet. In addition, he said the police department has received zero tips about the bottles.

In most instances, according to the Garfield Sheriff’s statement, the bottles have been filled with a blue or purple liquid and a paper-like substance.

“The contents of the bottles are corrosive and flammable; furthermore, the contents are hazardous to human health,” the Sheriff’s Office warns.

Anyone who finds a suspicious bottle along area riverbanks or in any location is advised to not move, touch or open the bottles.

“Instead, note the location and immediately contact your local law enforcement representatives,” the statement says.