Meth lab busts in W.Va.
2012 - 59*
2011 - 229
2010 - 154
2009 - 146
2008 - 110
2007 - 125
*(through Feb. 24)
Source: W.Va. State PoliceCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The number of illegal methamphetamine labs seized this year in West Virginia is on a record-setting pace.
In the first 54 days of the year, police discovered 59 clandestine labs in homes, motel rooms and vehicles across the state, according to new data from the West Virginia State Police.
"We're getting more than one a day," said Lt. Mike Goff, who heads up the State Police's drug lab task force. "It would be a record year, if it continues."
At the current pace, meth lab busts would exceed the state's record seizure of 353 labs in 2005.
The data also shows a steady increase in meth lab busts since 2008.
Authorities found 110 labs that year, 146 in 2009, 154 in 2010 and 229 last year.
"The state is on track to easily exceed last year's number of meth busts," Goff said.
Police have investigated 22 meth labs in Kanawha County this year.
"The meth lab problem in Kanawha County is as serious as anywhere in the country," said Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha. "At some point, we absolutely have to say getting control of these drug-related issues is the No. 1 health issue for the state of West Virginia."
Mason County had the next highest number of labs this year with six. Hardy, Nicholas and Webster counties had three labs each.
"We usually see about two-thirds of the state's meth labs in Kanawha County," Goff said. "But we're starting to see them getting scattered out much more."
State Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, has advocated for a bill that would require a prescription for the purchase of pseudoephedrine, a cold and allergy medication that's also a key meth-making ingredient.
Foster and law enforcement authorities say the measure would clamp down on meth production in West Virginia.
The proposal has gotten little traction in the Senate this year. Last year, a prescription-only bill failed on a tie vote in the Senate.
Instead, a majority of lawmakers support Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's plan to adopt a "real-time" pseudoephedrine tracking system -- called NPLEx. The electronic monitoring system is designed to block illegal sales.
Substance abuse bill advances
On Monday, the Senate Finance Committee advanced Tomblin's bill -- without a prescription-only pseudoephedrine requirement.
State Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, said the passage of Tomblin's wide-ranging legislation shouldn't get tied up with a single issue.