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January 8, 2014

Police probe possible drug lab

NEWBURYPORT — Police are investigating what may be an illegal drug lab inside a suburban home at 2 Christopher St., in a neighborhood near Atkinson Common.

Police closed off the quiet side road off Jefferson Street shortly before 3 p.m., about three hours after emergency units responded to a medical aid call at 11:54 a.m. involving a man lying on the ground near the home. City Marshal Thomas Howard said the victim may be a tenant.

Howard said EMTs and police conducting a well-being check of the house discovered a gray haze inside the kitchen. A search of the house found chemicals and laboratory equipment, leading local police to call in state police, state Hazmat units, a Drug Enforcement Agency rapid response team, North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council units and others.

The discovery was called a “possible meth laboratory” by other media reporting on the story; however, local police could not confirm that. “Meth” is short for methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant and hallucinogenic drug that is used recreationally.

As of yesterday officials were still unclear what the chemicals are, but they conducted their operations as if the chemicals were part of a drug laboratory, Howard added. A state Hazmat team entered the house yesterday afternoon.

The DEA was reported to be onsite last night, with more members expected today to go through the house.

A white vehicle was parked outside the innocuous looking ranch-style gray house. According to the city’s online assessor’s database, the house is owned by Christopher M. Kelleher Trust and was built in 1956.

The houses are close together in the Christopher Street neighborhood, though not as densely settled as Newburyport’s older neighborhoods. As police worked at the scene, neighbors mostly stayed inside on the bitterly cold afternoon.

The victim, a man in his 50s, was transported to Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport for treatment. His name and condition were not released by authorities.

Howard said early last night that the area was safe and there was no danger to the community.

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