UPDATED: Clandestine drug lab found in Willoughby

Surrey RCMP drug section officers have arrested one man and are dismantling what they believe is a large scale ecstasy manufacturing lab in a Langley neighbourhood.

Officers with the Surrey and Langley RCMP, along with the regional Clandestine Lab unit, arrived armed with a search warrant on Thursday morning.

The site, in the 20600 block of 72nd Avenue, is an acreage with a number of outbuildings.

The site has been the subject of a Surrey investigation for several weeks, said Sgt. Dale Carr, spokesperson for the Surrey RCMP.

“This is one of the largest that we’ve run into,” in terms of drug labs, said Carr.

A 36-year-old Surrey man has been arrested as part of the investigation, and has since been released, Carr said. Drug related charges may be laid later.

“Although several officers are still at the scene gathering evidence, we can already say that this is a large scale operation,” said Sgt. Dale Carr of the Surrey RCMP. “With public safety being our priority, 72nd Avenue was actually closed for a short time yesterday, but was immediately re-opened once we could confirm that our communities and nearby residents were not at risk.”

Carr could not say what the value of drugs made at the lab might have been, and said they could have been sold within Canada and the Lower Mainland or exported. Investigators couldn’t say yet whether there was a link to criminal gangs.

Over the course of Thursday and Friday, officers in hazmat suits worked their way into a number of buildings on the property in the 20600 block of 72nd.

Power saws and the sound of breaking wood and metal could be heard nearby on Thursday morning.

The house and front of the property appeared largely normal from the street.

However, the back of the property showed that reinforced metal doors and screens had been installed over doors on both the house and a detached garage.

Additional partitions and new walls had also been built into the garage, and the police sawed open one wall to get out larger pieces of equipment.

There was a significant amount of equipment on the property, including dozens of electric heating elements, glassware, industrial sized coffee filters, large tubs and pots, and tubing. Some of the equipment was improvised, including a large drill press that had been converted into a mixer with the addition of a paddle to the drill.

Carr said it appears the drug makers were simply dumping the residues of their manufacturing process out pipes behind the garage.

The water and residue ran downhill, onto neighbouring properties. A row of blackberry bushes against a fence on the drug lab property was largely dead.

Tom Sampson lives in the neighbourhood down the hill from the hidden lab, and said that for several years neighbours have been complaining about a sewage smell in the surface water.

“At least three years that I know of,” he said.

Sampson said the Township had tested water in the area but had not found sewage contamination. Some neighbours were suspicious of the home that housed the drug lab, Sampson said. There have been marijuana grow ops nearby several times in the past.

While the occupants of the lab were not actively making drugs at the time the police arrived with a search warrant, Carr said the police believe it had been an active drug lab and was still in use. The large amounts of chemicals and equipment on hand would not have been abandoned, Carr said.

A film crew was with the police officers as they made their raid. The crew was from the National Geographic Channel, which produces a documentary reality show called Drugs, Inc. about the drug trade.

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