Police issue warning about roadside trash

Bottles and jugs on the side of the road could have been discarded by someone cooking meth.

Police are issuing a warning about picking up trash on the side of the road. Investigators say even though soda bottles, water bottles and plastic grocery bags look like litter, they're alerting people to use extra caution before picking it up.

In Lafayette last week, firefighters had to hose down the contents of a backpack left on a bridge after boys on a bike found it, saw it venting some sort of vapors and called police.

"It's got inhalation hazards. If you breathe it in, it could hurt your lungs," said ISP Senior Trooper Tom Egler.

Police say use caution when cleaning up the roadside or your own front yard and be careful with plastic bottles. Don't touch those bottles, especially if there seems to be an ammonia smell, discarded batteries nearby or even empty medicine packets.

Especially watch out for bags from drug stores or discount department stores. Often, the meth cookers will buy the things they need - one-stop shopping - then cook the meth in their car. It's too easy, then, to just dispose of the waste product right out the car window.

"It's hard to say what's in something. I don't mess with it," said Paul Andes, a homeowner along US 40.

Andes has seen stuff dropped on his front yard before, but "I don't pick the stuff up." In fact, there's a jug with some liquid inside on the street outside his house now.

If you pick up a suspicious bag or bottle to throw away, don't put it in a trash can in your house or garage.

Egler remembers the man who thought he was just picking up an abandoned empty gas can, but was actually "hydrochloric acid gas. It actually burned a hole in the floor board of his car."

If you find a suspicious item, especially if it's venting fumes, call local police or the Indiana State Police for help - don't handle it yourself.