Police: Basalt house search nets common chemicals but no meth | VailDaily.com

Police: Basalt house search nets common chemicals but no meth

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Basalt police are trying to unravel the mystery of the chemical-filled bottles thrown into the Roaring Fork River after searching the home of a man arrested Friday, March 16, when allegedly caught in the act of discarding plastic containers.

Basalt Police Chief Gregg Knott said Monday officers searched the house of Ricardo Parras-Membreno, 43, for more than three hours Friday night at the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park. They found no evidence of a drug-making operation, Knott said.

The search was conducted after a dramatic sweep of the scene by the All-Hazards Response Team from Garfield County. The team made sure the house could be entered by officers without hazardous materials suits and was free of dangerous parties.

"We conducted the search warrant and found chemicals in the residence," Knott said. "There was no meth found in the residence."

Parras-Membreno was taken to Pitkin County Jail and was released Saturday after posting $15,000 bail. He was arrested on three felony charges related to dumping hazardous waste.

Knott said they continue to investigate why the suspect was allegedly mixing chemicals and dumping the bottles in the river. Knott said 74 bottles have been recovered from the river at the bridge or downstream.

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"We have to explore all possibilities of what those chemicals were being used for," Knott said.

Parras-Membreno was arrested at dawn Friday after police staked out a site near the 7-Eleven Bridge in Basalt where at least 74 bottles were thrown into the river since this winter.

No Explanation

When he was questioned after his arrest, Parras-Membreno claimed there was only water in the bottles, according to an affidavit submitted to a judge by Basalt police to get Friday's search warrant.

"He eventually acknowledged they contained chemicals, but would not explain the reasoning for his actions," the affidavit said. "He stated he wanted to clear the inside of the bottles, and the duct tape was to protect the outside.

"It appears Parras is avoiding telling us what the bottles are for," the affidavit concluded.

Police believe Parras-Membreno shared the residence with roommates but no other individual is suspected of involvement in the mixing or dumping of the chemicals, Knott said.