Over the past month or two, approximately three tons of equipment and ephemera associated with an indoor marijuana grow facility was found discarded at federal land site on Colorado's Western Slope -- likely after voters in Grand Junction, the area's largest city, banned medical marijuana retail operations. And a Bureau of Land Management spokesman confirms that this wasn't the first pot-gear dump discovered lately.
According to Dave Boyd, public affairs specialist for the BLM in northwestern Colorado, the material, which was discovered just off a shallow bank about six miles north of Rifle, just off Highway 13, didn't include any actual marijuana. Instead, it was dominated by "a lot of potting soil, where the plants would have been grown, and all kinds of equipment associated with that: venting pipe, a filtration device, mostly empty bottles of hydroponic fertilizer, that kind of thing."
This description doesn't suggest toxicity of the sort associated with meth labs, but Boyd confirms that "we treated it as a hazmat site. The concern is that you don't necessarily know what's all involved. There could have been pesticides, unknown liquids and powders, and you also have to be worried about mold spores that could grow from something like that." In this case, hazmat experts found no such risky substances, but Boyd still feels "this is definitely not something you want to be digging around in, because the potential to breathe in something bad or be exposed to something dangerous is high."
As for the source of the refuge, "we don't know if this was from an illegal or legal grow," Boyd says. "But it's definitely illegal to dump it on BLM land, or to dump it anywhere, so the crime we're investigating is illegal dumping." Besides, "this is the second one we've found in the area," he reveals. "The other one was farther east and not on BLM land."
Given the outlawing of dispensaries in Grand Junction and other municipalities, Boyd notes, "we're definitely monitoring" the prospect of more marijuana-related dumpings, "and it's something we'll aggressively pursue." Likewise, BLM reps are keeping their eyes open for illegal grows -- and while they occasionally spotted ones in the area, Mother Nature helps prevent most. "A lot of the land here is pretty arid -- especially BLM land," he says. "It might not be ideal for growing."