Sheriff warns of cleanup dangers

OSCEOLA COUNTY — OK. Apparently Spring has sprung.

There are hopes — deep, sincere hopes — that winter has passed and that the snow is done and gone.

With the coming of Spring, many individuals and groups throughout the county are gearing up for road cleaning efforts.

Not only are there two annual state-wide Adopt a Highway cleanup dates, but many groups and neighborhood organizations regularly hold local cleanup events as well.

Not wanting to put a damper on such laudable efforts, Osceola County Sheriff Jim Crawford nevertheless has a word of warning to all those heading out to pick up trash and collect refuse.

Be careful. Be alert.

“When the snow thaws, a lot of junk is uncovered along our roadways,” said Crawford.

“It’s great that folks want to pick up and try to keep our county neat and clean, but they need to be careful.”

Crawford pointed out just two examples of dangerous and unsanitary things to be found along the roadways.

“There are pop bottles filled with urine,” he said.

“In my strolls along my own neighborhood roads, I’ve already seen some.

“I don’t know why people feel the need to urinate in pop bottles and then just throw them out the window of the truck or car. It’s sad really.

“But as bad as that is, there is something even more dangerous.”

Crawford noted that with the development of the “shake and bake” method of starting methamphetamines, people are finding more and more portable meth labs — or parts of the same — along rural roadways.

“It’s scary,” said the sheriff. “There are pop bottles and other plastic bottles laying in ditches and along roads filled with some pretty dangerous materials.

“These can be very, very dangerous if opened by some unsuspecting roadway cleanup person.

“These bottles can be filled with pretty serious chemical combinations that can cause some serious damage.

“Folks really need to be alert and aware of what they are doing during roadside cleanup efforts.”

Crawford noted that in very general terms, folks should be suspicious of any bottle filled with any material laying alongside a road.

“In Michigan, there is a bottle refund,” he said. “Empty bottles are worth money and most folks don’t just toss them out the window.

“Still, there are always bottles alongside the road.

“What should be of special concern is bottles that are closed up tight with any material inside. And of even more concern should be a bottle that is sealed with a material inside that obviously is not what one would expect from that product.

“These finds along the road should be steered clear of. That’s all there is to it.

“I understand people are out trying to clean up the countryside, but unfortunately there are even dangers in something as simple as a roadside cleanup.”

Crawford very heartily suggested wearing thick gauge rubber gloves during cleanup efforts — or at least doubled up rubber gloves if of a lighter or thinner material.

‘You have to be careful,” he said.

“There’s always the potential for finding something that can stick you or make you sick.”

If a suspicious bottle or grouping of materials is found during a roadside cleanup, it should be left well alone and reported to law enforcement officials.

Meth labs, portable meth labs, or potential meth labs should not be tampered with under any circumstances.

When in doubt, walk away and report.