Basalt police worried after more bottles suspected in meth-making found in Roaring Fork River
The Basalt Police Department is warning people not to be environmental do-gooders if they find suspicious looking bottles in the midvalley section of the Roaring Fork River.
Eight additional bottles sealed with duct tape have been found in or along the river since the Basalt Fire Department fished out 14 bottles by the 7-Eleven Bridge in Basalt on Jan. 24, according to Basalt Police Sgt. Aaron Munch. In addition, five bottles were found prior to last Wednesday, some as far back as summer 2017, according to reports that have been coming in to the police.
That means at least 27 suspicious bottles have been found in the past six months or so.
Authorities suspect the bottles were used in what’s known as the cold-cook method of making methamphetamine, Munch said. Samples have been taken from several bottles and shipped to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for testing.
Meanwhile, authorities fear there are more bottles in the river between Basalt and Ranch at Roaring Fork, the lowest point where they have been found to date. Once fishing, rafting and other river-related activities pick up this spring it is likely that more bottles will be found.
“That’s the concern just now,” Munch said. “Not a whole lot of people are floating the rivers. The places where they have been found are high-traffic areas.”
People should mark where the bottles are located and report the vessels to authorities for proper removal, he said. They should not be opened. The bottles likely contain volatile byproducts of the meth-making process. If the contents are spilled, it could harm the handlers and the river ecosystem, authorities said. Obviously a big concern is for children playing along the riverbanks.
Munch said most of the bottles are heavy enough to sink to the riverbed. There have been reports of anglers fishing them out and bringing them to the riverbanks and to guide shops and opening them.
Rick Lofaro, executive director of the Basalt-based Roaring Fork Conservancy, said some of the bottle discoveries were reported to his organization. His staff wasn’t sure at first what to make of the suspicious containers because the cold-cook method of making meth wasn’t on anybody’s radar. The incidents have been an unsettling dose of reality, he said. Conservancy officials helped bring the issue to the attention of the Police Department.
“I would say we’ve got a pretty big level of concern from a community-safety perspective,” Lofaro said. “A close second is concern for river health.
“It’s hard to know if any of that (content) is ending up in the river or not,” he added.
Assuming the tests confirm that bottles have been used to make meth, police will still be left with unraveling the mystery of who is doing it and why the bottles are in the river. Munch said it is uncertain if the bottles have been discarded or if they have been intentionally stored in the river during the cold-cook process because they are so volatile.
“That’s probably one of the biggest questions for us,” he said.
Anyone who finds a suspicious bottle in or around the river can call the Basalt Police Department at 970-927-4316.
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Kevin Warner started his career with the U.S. Forest Service as a wilderness ranger in 2001. Now he’s taking over the key position as Aspen-Sopris District Ranger.