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This plastic 2-liter bottle was used to make meth without heat; it was found near Vinton.

Benton County detective Mark Phippen was returning to Vinton from Keystone with a stolen anhydrous ammonia tank in his truck last week, when he saw evidence of a new kind of meth manufacturing in Benton County.

Along the side of Highway 218 two miles north of Vinton was a two-liter pop bottle partially filled with a white powder. Right away the long-time member of the RAID Task Force recognized it as a container for what law enforcement officers call the "Shake and Bake" meth.

"We have seen this in Linn, Cedar and Buchanan Counties already," said Phippen.

Instead of using burners to cook meth, this method relies only on a two-liter plastic bottle. Phippen said that along with lithium and pseudo ephedrine, the mix requires nitrate (usually from a fertilizer spike) and the chemicals used in pharmaceutical cold packs.

One danger of this technique, said Phippen, is that the bottle is under high pressure and could explode in the hands of the person making the drugs.

Phippen explained that shaking the bottle causes the chemical reaction that "cooks" the meth without heat, but causes high pressure in the bottle. The user must continually twist the cap to release the pressure.

The danger is reminiscent of the "MacGyver" bombs inspired by the 1980s-90s TV show.

Used bottles containing residue do not pose that risk, Phippen explained.

It's most common for rural residents to notice the evidence of meth manufacturing in the spring, after the snow has melted, or in the fall after harvest.

Phippen said he does not know if the meth makers who left this bottle behind are from the area, or were simply passing through. But, he explains, meth arrests are on the rise in the area.

For the past nine months, the RAID units have found 11 meth labs, while for the 12 months before that, there were only eight in the three-county area (Delaware, Buchanan and Benton) where the RAID group works.

Fighting meth is a battle of ingenuity, as users seek to find their way around new laws designed to limit access to the precursors used to make the dangerous drug.

The first locks created to prevent the theft from anhydrous from tanks at agricultural chemical providers could easily be broken with a heated plastic ink pen.

"They even You-Tubed how to do that," Phippen said.

Phippen said that one tool that has worked is known as NPLEx, the National Precursor Log Exchange. This system alerts store clerks if someone is trying to buy more pseudoephedrine than allowed by law. It also allows law enforcement officers to check on specific meth convicts who may be trying to purchase the cold medicine for use in making meth.

Anyone finding any suspicious materials should call the Benton County Sheriff's Office at 319-472-2337.

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