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Campground closed to investigate suspicious odors; cleanup planned

Forest service employees notice unusual smell.

Chemicals found at Canyon Creek campground on the southwest portion of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest will be cleaned up after being preliminarily identified last Thursday, Aug. 29, as agents used in the making of illegal methamphetamine drugs.

Specialists from the Washington Department of Ecology's Spill Response Unit said they believe a gallon of either toluene or acetone dumped on the ground was responsible for five Forest Service workers feeling stinging in the nose and numbing of the lips. The workers were digging a hole to secure new picnic tables in the eight-site campground when the odors forced them to stop on Aug. 28.

The Forest Service employees took precautionary measures including washing exposed skin and laundering their clothes. They did not appear to be injured.

An inspection of the campground also turned up hypodermic needles, a bottle of high-acidic liquid and other paraphernalia associated with illegal drug operations. These items are older and are probably not associated with the chemicals found at the campsite, according to forest law enforcement officials.

The campsite will be cleaned up by removing the contaminated soil and a nearby fire ring. Ecology officials also inspected the other seven sites but found no additional chemicals.

While methamphetamine sites are common in rural and secluded areas, this marks the first time meth components have been found in a Gifford Pinchot National Forest campground.

The Skamania County Sheriff's Office as well as the Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force and Forest Service law enforcement officers have been notified.

The campground is on Forest Road 54 approximately 8 miles east of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument headquarters at Chelatchie Prairie. Forest Road 54 remains open.


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