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Suspected meth lab explodes in federal building near D.C.

Police are investigating whether an explosion in a government building on July 18 was related to methamphetamine manufacturing, according to media reports.

The explosion occurred about 7:30 p.m. Saturday in a lab at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where the Department of Commerce conducts experiments. A federal NIST security officer was found injured at the scene, according to News4 Washington.

Police and firefighters said the explosion was powerful, tossing a blast shield almost 25 feet. The laboratories in the Gaithersburg, Maryland building had no experiments scheduled during the weekend.

Police told News4 that an officer was found with burns on his hands and arms. Officers recovered pseudoephedrine, drain cleaner, and a recipe for methamphetamine that were found at the scene.

“We are looking at the possibility that this was some sort of chemical reaction due to the manufacturing of drugs,” Montgomery County Police Capt. Paul Starks said.

The injured federal security officer resigned from his job the next day.

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Congress has requested more information about the circumstances surrounding the explosion.

“The fact that this explosion took place at a taxpayer-funded NIST facility, potentially endangering NIST employees, is of great concern,” said Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Texas), according to Science & Engineering News.
“I am troubled by the allegations that such dangerous and illicit activity went undetected at a federal research facility.”

The Montgomery County Police Department is investigating the incident, along with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. So far no arrests have been made.

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