Jackson County medication incineration

Barbara Layton
Lieutenant Chris Metz and Chief Deputy Ross Mellinger remove debris from the incinerator in order to prepare for a new burn.

Since 2007, the Jackson County Anti-Drug Coalition has played a crucial role in the attempt to rid Jackson County of unwanted prescription medication and illegal drugs.

Programs such as the Prescription Drug Take-Back Program, have made it easier for people in the community to turn in unused over-the-counter and prescription medications at events held throughout the year.

Located inside both the Ravenswood and Ripley Police Departments as well as the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in Ripley, are Medication Disposal Boxes. These boxes are available, during regular business hours, for the proper disposal of unused or no longer needed medications.

Along with illegal drugs that are seized from criminal cases, all of the collected medication needs to be properly disposed of in an efficient and safe manner.

Amy Haskins with the Jackson County Health Department and Jackson County Anti-Drug Coalition (JCADC), was able to obtain the state’s first drug incinerator in 2013, which took two years to come to fruition. As a pilot program for the state, the $12,000 incinerator was purchased through donations from American Electric Power, members of the community, asset forfeiture money from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, and $2,000 in grant funds.

“We worked hand-and-hand with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to make sure it was going to be a piece of equipment that would meet EPA regulations and DEP guidelines,” Haskins said.

The incinerator itself was built from scratch by Colby Pepper of Pepper Brothers Welding, Inc. of Ravenswood.

Lieutenant Chris Metz of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department was put in charge of operating the incinerator. He has now been running the machine around three times a year for the last seven years.

Recently, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Ross Mellinger and Lieutenant Metz took the incinerator out to the Jackson County Fairgrounds to burn items collected over the past few months. Prior to burning a new batch of medications, the remains of the previously burned drugs must be removed.

Drugs included in the burn can be typical over-the-counter medications, to prescription drugs, as well as marijuana, Oxycontin, and even methamphetamines.

Mellinger said the drugs collected are placed in five gallon containers and one-by-one, each container is dumped into the incinerator for disposal. Once loaded, Metz fires up the machine and closes the lid. According to Metz, the temperature at it’s highest is around 1,400 degrees.

“It’s around a six hour process to complete,” Metz said.

“It’s a pretty simple piece of equipment, but it’s kind of sophisticated too,” Mellinger said.

As far as using asset forfeiture money to help fund the machine, Mellinger said it’s a little ironic.

“It’s kind of a neat piece of irony; you’re using drug dealers money to burn up their stuff,” he said.

According to Haskins, because of the success of the Jackson County incinerator, the JCADC was able to advocate for 10 other incinerators across the state.

“Five are owned by the State Police and another five, the West Virginia Attorney General’s office gave out grant funding to local police departments that wanted to apply,” Haskins said.

“It’s one thing I think every county should have,” Mellinger said. “It keeps these drugs from getting into the wrong hands, and keeps them off the streets.”

Metz dumps 5 gallon buckets of collected medications into the incinerator.