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Home Science Under Attack In Massachusetts 1334

Posted by kdawson
from the and-the-yellow-phthalate-too dept.
An anonymous reader tips a guest posting up on the MAKE Magazine blog by the author of the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments. It seems that authorities in Massachusetts have raided a home chemistry lab, apparently without a warrant, and made off with all of its contents. Here's the local article from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. "Victor Deeb, a retired chemist who lives in Marlboro, has finally been allowed to return to his Fremont Street home, after Massachusetts authorities spent three days ransacking his basement lab and making off with its contents. Deeb is not accused of making methamphetamine or other illegal drugs. He's not accused of aiding terrorists, synthesizing explosives, nor even of making illegal fireworks. Deeb fell afoul of the Massachusetts authorities for... doing experiments... Pamela Wilderman, the code enforcement officer for [the Massachusetts town of] Marlboro stated, 'I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation.' Allow me to translate Ms. Wilderman's words into plain English: 'Mr. Deeb hasn't actually violated any law or regulation that I can find, but I don't like what he's doing because I'm ignorant and irrationally afraid of chemicals, so I'll abuse my power to steal his property and shut him down.'"
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Home Science Under Attack In Massachusetts

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  • by cybrpnk2 (579066) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:14PM (#24571847) Homepage
    Chemistry for chemistry's sake has been banned all along. Check out this article [about.com] on how to get your banned pdf copy of one cool 1960s chemistry book with some not-so-cool experiments...
  • AS always... (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:17PM (#24571903)

    Fuck first post, but mostly FUCK the POLICE! If this guy wants to play with his chemistry set so be it. Let's put all the cops in jail because I'm sure they have crossed the line.

  • Re:Chemicals (Score:5, Informative)

    by c41rn (880778) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:19PM (#24571941)
    For what it's worth, the comments in the linked article say, "What Victor Deeb was working on is the elimination of Bisphenol A, Bisphenol F, (used in container closure coatings) PVC, pthalates (used in food container sealants) BisPhenol A, Bisphenol F and pthalates ( carcinogens) have been detected in baby food, and Dioxin( a very powerful carcinogen the product of incinerating food container closure to recover the metal) from the environment"
  • Re:Call the FBI? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman.gmail@com> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:20PM (#24571961) Homepage Journal

    Indeed. Massachusetts, allow me to introduce you to the fourth amendment:

    >i>The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    This fellow needs to make sure that the local authorities are smacked down. HARD.

  • Re:Chemicals (Score:4, Informative)

    by pxuongl (758399) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:24PM (#24572055)
    and also if the original article was actually read before making a sensationalist headline and summary, this isn't as bad as it's made out to be:

    1. there was a fire in an air conditioning unit in the home.

    2. the fire department responded, and in the course of responding, found hundreds of vials of chemicals.

    It's illegal to enter a private residence w/o a warrant, but in this case, the home owner invited the cops in when he called the fire department.

    only lesson to be taken home here: hide your stash before calling the cops
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:24PM (#24572073)
    The following link is to the "inspections" division of the city where the zealot works. Phone numbers and emails are listed. Just an FYI http://www.marlborough-ma.gov/Gen/MarlboroughMA_Inspection/index [marlborough-ma.gov]
  • BS editorializing (Score:5, Informative)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:26PM (#24572123)
    The summary text

    "Allow me to translate Ms. Wilderman's words into plain English: 'Mr. Deeb hasn't actually violated any law or regulation that I can find, but I don't like what he's doing because I'm ignorant and irrationally afraid of chemicals, so I'll abuse my power to steal his property and shut him down."

    appears nowhere in the linked article, yet kdawson has chosen to sensationalize by adding his own words and making it look as if they were part of the article.

    In fact the article actually states:

    "Mr. Deebâ(TM)s home lab likely violated the regulations of many state and local departments, although officials have not yet announced any penalties. "

  • by Quirkz (1206400) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:27PM (#24572133) Homepage
    From the article: "Mr. Deeb was doing scientific research and development in a residential area, which is a violation of zoning laws."

    After reading the article, I'm pretty unimpressed with the selective quoting in the blurb. Not only were laws broken, but from the description of the house, it sounds like there was at least a little reason to want to investigate, if perhaps not launch a cleanup. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill.
  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <.ten.suomafni. .ta. .smt.> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:27PM (#24572137) Homepage

    Allow me to translate Ms. Wilderman's words into plain English: 'Mr. Deeb hasn't actually violated any law or regulation that I can find, but I don't like what he's doing because I'm ignorant and irrationally afraid of chemicals, so I'll abuse my power to steal his property and shut him down.'"

    According to TFA, "Mr. Deeb's home lab likely violated the regulations of many state and local departments, although officials have not yet announced any penalties."

    Also according to TFA, Mr. Deeb invited the fire department into his home, to deal with an an unrelated fire.

    So, it seems that a violation was committed (though the question of the reasonability of the regulations in question remains open), and that this wasn't some sort of "no knock" raid.

    Also, the fact that the chemicals in question were no more dangerous than typical household chemicals is not relevant - a lot of household chemical are very dangerous and are only permitted because they are typically kept in small quantities. It's one thing to have a can of bug spray, another to store a ton of pesticides.

  • Re:Chemicals (Score:4, Informative)

    by cybrpnk2 (579066) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:32PM (#24572237) Homepage
    Pamela A. Wilderman / Code Enforcement Officer / 508-460-3765

    Joseph Ferson / Department of Environmental Protection / Joseph.Ferson@state.ma.us / 617-654-6523

  • Re:BS editorializing (Score:4, Informative)

    by skyshard (1067094) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:34PM (#24572293) Homepage
    actually, that quote is from the MAKE article/guest post thing by Robert Bruce Thompson: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/08/home_science_under_attack.html [makezine.com]

    [...]Pamela Wilderman, the code enforcement officer for Marlboro, stated, "I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation."
    Allow me to translate Ms. Wilderman's words into plain English: "Mr. Deeb hasn't actually violated any law or regulation that I can find, but I don't like what he's doing because I'm ignorant and irrationally afraid of chemicals, so I'll abuse my power to steal his property and shut him down."
    In effect, the Massachusetts authorities have invaded Deeb's lab, apparently without a warrant, and stolen his property[...]
  • by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:34PM (#24572297)

    Read TFA (the original article, not the sensationalist link):

    Firefighters found more than 1,500 vials, jars, cans, bottles and boxes in the basement Tuesday afternoon, after they responded to an unrelated fire in an air conditioner on the second floor of the home.

    (emphasis mine)

    The discovery wasn't a random home invasion, simply the result of doing their job. Much like police can bust you for murder if they see a dead body in your back seat after pulling you over for speeding, the firefighters reported a potentially unsafe violation of zoning and other laws.

    Now if it turns out no laws were broken and they still destroy his property, that's screwed up.

  • Re:Typical (Score:5, Informative)

    by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:36PM (#24572329)
    Liked blog is crap. Here is the real story:
    http://www.telegram.com/article/20080809/NEWS/808090323/1007/NEWS05 [telegram.com]

    "Firefighters found more than 1,500 vials, jars, cans, bottles and boxes in the basement Tuesday afternoon, after they responded to an unrelated fire in an air conditioner on the second floor of the home.

    Vessels of chemicals were all over the furniture and the floor, authorities said. The ensuing investigation involved a state hazardous materials team, fire and police officials, health officials, environmental officials and code enforcement officials. The Deebs were told to stay in a hotel while the slew of officials investigated and emptied the basement. "
  • by Nos. (179609) <andrew@theker r s . ca> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:36PM (#24572335) Homepage
    Not saying this is the case, but often fire fighters will want to shut off all breakers (remove fuses), and shut off gas lines in a residential fire. Often, the breaker box and gas shut off valve are in the basement. Of course, it can be done externally by the utilities as well, but it can be faster to do locally
  • by woztheproblem (454186) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:36PM (#24572349)

    They don't need a warrant if they are called in to respond to a fire.

    "Firefighters found more than 1,500 vials, jars, cans, bottles and boxes in the basement Tuesday afternoon, after they responded to an unrelated fire in an air conditioner on the second floor of the home."

    http://www.telegram.com/article/20080809/NEWS/808090323/1008/ [telegram.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:37PM (#24572371)

    In 30+ years of life, the only people who have directly terrorized me are police officers.

    I live in the United States of America.

  • Re:Call the FBI? (Score:4, Informative)

    by kmcarr (1185785) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:39PM (#24572407)
    First I want to make it clear that I am not "taking the city's side" but how can a post be insightful when it makes it abundantly clear that the poster never read the linked article. (Yes, I know this is /.) His home was originally entered by firefighters because of an air conditioner fire, they don't need a warrant when you ask them in to please keep your home from burning down. In the normal course of their duties the firefighters observed, in plain sight, what they reasonably believed could be hazardous materials. They contacted the appropriate authorities. Second, Mr. Deeb was NEVER placed under arrest or even taken into police custody. He and his wife were asked to stay at a hotel (or some other location) while DEP and hazardous material crews cleared the home.
  • Re:Chemicals (Score:2, Informative)

    by Tenrosei (1305283) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:40PM (#24572451)
    they didn't need a warrant at all it was a potential crime scene there was a fire. Firefighters found more than 1,500 vials, jars, cans, bottles and boxes in the basement Tuesday afternoon, after they responded to an unrelated fire in an air conditioner on the second floor of the home. http://www.telegram.com/article/20080809/NEWS/808090323/1008/ [telegram.com]
  • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:41PM (#24572463)

    Except the book is not from the man in the article, it's from the blog author that's stirring up the mess by acting as if this was a big deal while plugging his book.

  • Re:Chemicals (Score:5, Informative)

    by rufey (683902) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:43PM (#24572507)
    Usually I would agree that a warrant would be needed, except in this case, the fire department showed up due to a fire at the residence.

    According to the Telegram article, the house had a fire in a second floor air conditioning unit, which was responded to by the fire department. It was then that the fire department found the lab in the basement.
  • Re:And they say ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:43PM (#24572513)

    Pamela Wilderman, Secretary
    Phone: (508) 460-3769
    Fax: (508) 624-6504

  • Found a Picture... (Score:4, Informative)

    by GogglesPisano (199483) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:43PM (#24572517)

    Pretty much what you'd expect [boston.com]. Looks to be your garden variety petty bureaucrat, overly impressed by her little bit of power.

  • by kmcarr (1185785) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:44PM (#24572523)
    I think you missed the part about the chemicals being discovered by firefighters he invited into his home to put out an air conditioner fire.
  • Re:Chemicals (Score:5, Informative)

    by igotmybfg (525391) <slashdot@danielthomp s o n . net> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:45PM (#24572569) Homepage
    They didn't bust into the house - they were firefighters responding to a fire; Mr Deeb had called them for assistance. Furthermore, the stuff was lying around in plain sight. So no warrant was needed.
  • Re:Chemicals (Score:3, Informative)

    by captaindomon (870655) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:45PM (#24572571)
    He didn't call the fire department to invite them to his house. He most likely called the local emergency dispatch center (911) and requested help. it is well established that the emergency dispatcher can send whatever help she feels is necessary (car accidents usually get police, fire, and medical, for example). Having a nearby cop without a current call respond to a nearby fire call is not unusual at all. I have worked heavily with emergency dispatch software in the past, and I have talked to lots of dispatch operators-
  • Re:Zoning gone wild. (Score:5, Informative)

    by tha_mink (518151) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:46PM (#24572577)

    When the officer says, "This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation," he's implying a zoning violation. It can be answered with, "This is not what we consider to be a customary neighborhood nuisance." Zoning laws should protect people from things like junk yards, car dealerships and noisy manufacturing. Going after this man is a stretch of those intentions.

    It's like anti FUD with you people. He broke a zoning law. If you read the article, particularly the part where it says...

    Pamela A. Wilderman, Marlboro's code enforcement officer, said Mr. Deeb was doing scientific research and development in a residential area, which is a violation of zoning laws. "It is a residential home in a residential neighborhood," she said. "This is Mr. Deeb's hobby. He's still got bunches of ideas. I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation. ⦠There are regulations about how much you're supposed to have, how it's detained, how it's disposed of."

    ...you'd see that he had *WAY* too much stuff in his home AND was breaking the zoning laws by conducting scientific research in a residential neighborhood. I hate the government too, but what I hate more is idiots that spread half-truths. This is one of the latter cases. Print the whole story and it seems like a no brainer, but print half a story, and it feeds the no-brainers.

  • The actual law (Score:5, Informative)

    by WillRobinson (159226) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:46PM (#24572589) Journal

    You had to make me look, as I was quite surprised about that law. But here it is: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/criminal_law_enforcement/narcotics/narcprecursor.htm [state.tx.us]

  • Re:Zoning gone wild. (Score:5, Informative)

    by caesar-auf-nihil (513828) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:47PM (#24572619)

    Not all zoning is dumb. In this case, with as large as chemical fuel load he had in the home, if his house went up it would likely take out the other houses nearby. Zoning helps ensure that when you work on work that is potentially flammable/explosive you minimize the risk to nearby objects.
    I AM a fire safety researcher, and I know just how flammable most chemicals can be, especially since it looks like he was doing organic chemistry, which is what I have my doctorate in. I assure you his house (and no one's is) is rated to address the fire risk that would have eventually happened. The fact that he had a fire in his AC tells me that all the fumes from his operation were starting to condense in there and then got activated by a spark in the fan motor.
    Since I'm a chemist I'm not happy with how he got treated, but still, he should have known better. While I greatly admire the older chemists for their ability to just tinker, research and work non-stop in the lab, there's a reason why the death rate among chemists has dropped, and its because we don't work like this guy does.

  • by DigitalReverend (901909) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:48PM (#24572635)

    I contacted Ms. Wilderman, who actually answered her phone. http://www.marlborough-ma.gov/Gen/MarlboroughMA_Inspection/index [marlborough-ma.gov]
    Pamela A. Wilderman Code Enforcement Officer 508 460-3765

    She stated that the fire department was called for an apparent fire on the 2nd floor of Mr. Deeb's home. This allowed the firemen entry into the house. Upon further investigation (of the basement for a 2nd floor fire) the firemen discovered the chemicals and brought in the authorities.

    Ms. Wilderman said "We have zoning laws for this purpose, the firefighters were called into what they thought was a single family residence only to discover unmarked chemicals in the basement, he had a chemistry lab down there, in an area zoned residential". I informed her that I had an electronics lab, and beer brewing equipment in mine to which she made the comment "I bet your neighbors are thrilled about that". Of course I don't think my neighbors even know because they all mind their own business.

    Anyway this brings up a series of questions. Were the chemicals truly unmarked? Mr. Deebs is a retired chemist, surely he would practice some type of protocol. Second, if his activity is not illegal where is the justification of not only seizing the items, but then stating they will be disposed of. Will Mr. Deebs be reimbursed. What if they went into the basement and discovered a person to hand loads his own ammunition? It is a perfectly legal hobby practiced by shooters all over the country. Would they have seized those items?

    Finally, I would love to hear Mr. Deebs story on this. His reputation is being destroyed over a simple hobby.

  • by Chroniton (734481) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:49PM (#24572667)
    I used to do this 15-20 years ago. Iron nails work even better than aluminum. You're really just releasing hydrogen gas... which builds up pressure until the bottle pops. Lots of youtube videos here... [youtube.com]
  • by bws111 (1216812) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:50PM (#24572693)
    You don't consider a report by firemen, having responded to a fire at the residence and finding things that could kill them, to be a 'probable cause'? I can't really think of a better cause, or a better reason why it is illegal for him to have the stuff.
  • Re:Chemicals (Score:4, Informative)

    by bradgoodman (964302) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:51PM (#24572721) Homepage
    No warrant needed. The firefighters were there fighting the fire, and the chemicals were "In plain sight".
  • Re:Chemicals (Score:3, Informative)

    by Znork (31774) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:52PM (#24572733)

    Depending on the specifics of what this guy's dealing with,

    Depending on the specifics of what you use to clean your oven, polish your silverware, wash your car or your bathroom and the jurisdiction you're in, you may be subject to rules regarding your disposal of such waste chemicals.

    Perhaps raiding houses with shiny silverware and bleached tablecloth would be in order?

    Disposal rules are not limited to chemists, and I'd assume (perhaps naively) that a practicing chemist would be more aware of how to handle his waste than the average user of various hazardous and toxic household chemicals.

  • Re:And they say ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:53PM (#24572743)

    The "Corporation" in the "Corporate State" is a vertical trade guild -- ie, a Syndicate. Fascism is Guild Socialism mixed with Nationalism. Mussolini started out as a Communist, as his father had been. It is NOT the same thing as a corporation in the sense which most people think.

  • Bad Summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ian Alexander (997430) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:54PM (#24572769)

    Pamela Wilderman, the code enforcement officer for [the Massachusetts town of] Marlboro stated, 'I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation.' Allow me to translate Ms. Wilderman's words into plain English: 'Mr. Deeb hasn't actually violated any law or regulation that I can find, but I don't like what he's doing because I'm ignorant and irrationally afraid of chemicals, so I'll abuse my power to steal his property and shut him down.'"

    Actually, if you'll read the full quote, she finishes with: "⦠There are regulations about how much youâ(TM)re supposed to have, how itâ(TM)s detained, how itâ(TM)s disposed of." and the article continues with: "Mr. Deebâ(TM)s home lab likely violated the regulations of many state and local departments."

    So, even though he wasn't actively being a terrorist or doing anything wrong with the chemicals, there are still rules about how you're supposed to handle it and where and he apparently didn't abide by them well enough.

    Regarding the lack of a warrant, to the best of my knowledge, if you have something illegal sitting out in plain sight and a law enforcement agency is there on other business, they don't really need a warrant to get at it.

  • Re:BS editorializing (Score:4, Informative)

    by rufey (683902) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:54PM (#24572775)
    That statement did appear in the makezine.com link however. The Slashdot summary was quoting from there, not the actual news story on the Telegram's site.

    After reading the makezine.com story and then reading the actual news story on the Telegram's site, its apparent that the makezine.com's intention was to sensationalize a story that otherwise most no one would have a second thought about.

    I wouldn't want this kind of chemistry lab next to my house. There was a fire in a second floor air conditioning unit which the fire department responded to, and it was then that the chemistry lab was found. What if the fire had gotten out of control? Who knows what kind of mess that would have caused not only for the house it was in, but for the entire neighborhood.
  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:56PM (#24572813) Homepage Journal

    According to the newspaper article "most likely" violated numerous state and local regulations. Nobody is tossing out specifics because the town isn't planning to issue a citation. At issue is "how much you're supposed to have, how it's detained, how it's disposed of" in a residential area. So the issue isn't "experimenting", it's storage, processing and disposal at a facility not zoned for those purposes.

    Common sense will show you that the scale of experimentation makes a difference. Making a few quarts of biodiesel or a few bars of soap, that's home experimenting. Making a thousand gallons of biodiesel or a thousand pounds of soap is an industrial process. There isn't a precise line between chemistry set stuff and industrial production, but it's there. Making four gallons of beer a week is a lot for a home brewer, but making a hundred gallons a week probably means you've "crossed some line".

    The story doesn't really give us enough details to know whether the raid was justified, or served any public purpose. That depends on what they expected to find, why the expected to find it, and what they actually found, none of which is at this time public knowledge. We don't even know what level of government initiated this, it appears it was the town.

    One thing that's almost certain is that the search did not require a warrant. It is what is legally called an "administrative search". According to the dictionary an administrative search is "an inspection or search carried out under a regulatory or statutory scheme esp. in public or commercial premises and usu. to enforce compliance with regulations or laws pertaining to health, safety, or security. One of the fundamental principles of administrative searches is that the government may not use an administrative inspection scheme as a pretext to search for evidence of criminal violations."

    So the health inspector doesn't need a warrant to check on the crazy lady who has 200 cats in her house, which is a code violation even if its perfectly permissible for her to have 2 cats, or even 20. Likewise I can have a dog or two, but I can't run a kennel in a densely populated suburban neighborhood unless I have a zoning variance (and possibly pay commercial tax rates).

    You can argue that there shouldn't be such thing as zoning regulations. And its probably true that there are many places where there is little or no purpose to them. But zoning laws and administrative searches are NOT unconstitutional, at least by the interpretation of the Constitution that has held sway for a century or more.

  • by dyob (844682) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:57PM (#24572845)
    Pamela A. Wilderman Code Enforcement Officer 508 460-3765
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @02:57PM (#24572847)

    I'm getting sick of the police/narrow minded people having so much power. I was painting my car, with an HVLP gun and spraying less than 5 gallons of paint per year, well within the law in Texas. Well long story short my neighbors see me in a nylon suit with a gas mask and call me in as a meth lab.

    Cops came by and the saw me painting. One of them pulled me out by my fresh air line and I started swearing at him because I didn't see he was a cop. Long story short I had a 280lb man throw me on the ground.

    Then when they found out I wasn't violating any laws they told me if I was painting or welding again they'd pursue public nuisance.

    So the cycle has completed, the narrow minded have take over in America and crushed what innovation there was. When is someone going to discover a new continent so we can start the cycle over again?

  • by langelgjm (860756) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:05PM (#24572985) Journal

    I find it troubling that hobbyists are less trusted than corporations (assuming that these same experiments, performed by a corporation, would pose no problem - which I think the above quote pretty clearly implies).

    Running a company is going to require a number of licenses and inspections, depending on the type of work you do. Health or safety inspectors may come to examine your shop. You may be required to file compliance reports. None of that's true for a hobbyist's basement.

    Now, there's a good reason for that - "hobbyist" implies small-scale work that doesn't require inspections or regulation, because it's not the sort of thing that poses a safety hazard to anyone except perhaps the hobbyist. But when you're dealing with someone who has what sounds like a full scale lab and lots of stored chemicals, you've moved out of the category of "hobbyist."

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:09PM (#24573065) Homepage

    As early as 1821 [claytoncramer.com], there were restrictions on how much gunpowder you could have around in a city house. 5 lbs was a common limit, and still is. [state.ny.us] In New York State, above 5 pounds of black powder, the licensing, reporting, and safety rules apply; for example, storage within 75 feet of an inhabited building is not permitted.

    Modern smokeless powder isn't a major explosion hazard, but black powder is.

  • Re:Zoning gone wild. (Score:2, Informative)

    by initdeep (1073290) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:11PM (#24573111)

    This is only true when the zoning infraction does not potentially constitute an immediate danger to your surrounding areas.

    if you wanted to store a large amount of dynamite in your home, and had a lisc to have dynamite legally, you'd still be in violation of the zoning laws by doing so in your home.

    This they could, and should, confiscate it from your home as it is a potentially dangerous amount to not only you, but your neighbors as well.

    dynamite is an extreme example, however simple chemicals can cause as much or worse consequences when improperly mixed.

  • Re:And they say ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lurker187 (127055) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:12PM (#24573143)

    Firefighters also have hazardous materials training, and often have to clean up what happens when hazardous materials are not handled properly. They saw something that concerned them, and they reported their concerns to someone who overreacted, but the overreaction is the sole responsibility of the State agency(s) involved, and in no way the firefighters' responsibility. There's plenty of blame to go around, let's not start flinging it indiscriminately.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:15PM (#24573203)

    Cool book.

    What other books are banned from public libraries? There must be a list somewhere.

    I found this:
    http://title.forbiddenlibrary.com/
    and this:
    http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/banned-books.html
    but, dammit, I've read most of them. Where are the really bad ones?

    You can join me in Hell during:
    Banned Books Week
    Celebrating the Freedom to Read
    September 27â"October 4, 2008
    http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/bannedbooksweek.cfm

  • 40 years ago ... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Quirkz (1206400) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:20PM (#24573277) Homepage
    40 years ago they thought thalidomide (sp?) and DDT were beneficial chemicals, safe to expose all kinds of people to. Asbestos, too. Now they're a little more cautious about making sure people aren't getting poisoned or blown up.

    You may benefit by reading the article, which explains that the fire department was called, and when they discovered the 1500 jars of chemicals they determined it appeared to pose at least some risk in a residential home. Learning chemistry at home was not the crime, here. In fact, other than the enforced cleanup, it looks as if Deeb isn't going to be cited with anything.
  • by Ironsides (739422) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:21PM (#24573283) Homepage Journal
    You can get it in the grocery store here in Virginia, USA.
  • by amRadioHed (463061) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:22PM (#24573297)

    I've actually seen dry ice at some supermarkets here. At least it says dry ice on the bin in the front, I've never actually tried to buy it though.

  • Re:Call the FBI? (Score:3, Informative)

    by autocracy (192714) <slashdot2007 AT storyinmemo DOT com> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:27PM (#24573395) Homepage

    Add sodium.

    Water on its own? Boiler explosions are amazing. The almost instantaneous expansion of the steam from 150 to 180 pounds per square inch of atmospheric pressure produced a terrific force, which was usually violent enough to rip the firebox sheets and tear the entire locomotive boiler off of the locomotive frames. The effect was pretty much like a rocket taking off and exploding. Boilers were sometimes hurled hundreds of feet away. http://small-leavedshamrock.blogspot.com/2008/05/1892-pottsville-train-explosion-how-why.html [blogspot.com]

  • Re:And they say ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Random BedHead Ed (602081) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:32PM (#24573503) Homepage Journal

    Mod points be damned - I'll ditch them to get in on this thread. There's nothing about this story that is intrinsically left- or right-leaning, despite the temptation to apply that often imaginary dichotomy to everything under the sun. It's also not some indication that both liberals and conservatives are out to destroy chemistry as we know it, violating our rights as they go along. I ask the Libertarians to at least tentatively withdraw your attack dogs. Let's examine what we know.

    The meat of the case against Mr. Deeb is in this statement, which was not fully quoted in the summary because it comes from the MAKE article, which truncates it:

    Pamela A. Wilderman, Marlboro's code enforcement officer, said Mr. Deeb was doing scientific research and development in a residential area, which is a violation of zoning laws.

    That's from the source article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. It indicates that this wasn't just some dude with a home chemistry set and a nifty hobby; Deebs was doing "research and development." This doesn't make him dangerous, but it's entirely possible that he really was violating local zoning laws. Neither the MAKE article nor the Worcester Telegram & Gazette article specifies which zoning laws were violated, nor which chemicals were involved.

    So this may be a case of law enforcement overstepping its authority (and either liberalism or conservatism run amok, depending on whose adherents you think are more likely to try to convince us that chemists in basements are scary), but it may also be a case of Marlboro's "code enforcement" officers following perfectly valid (albeit annoying) zoning laws. Whether or not the laws are overly strict, I don't see anything in this article to indicate that Deeb's fundamental rights were violated ... except the bit about a lack of warrant. The MAKE article has this to say about that alleged Fourth Amendment infraction:

    In effect, the Massachusetts authorities have invaded Deeb's lab, apparently without a warrant, and stolen his property. Deeb, presumably under at least the implied threat of further action, has not objected to the warrantless search and the confiscation of his property.

    However, the original Worcester Telegram & Gazette article doesn't say anything about the absence of a warrant, and the MAKE article does not cite any other source. If that allegation is true, the Marlboro authorities have some explaining to do. But these sources are too limited to know for sure. I did a search on Google News and found this article [metrowestdailynews.com], which was the only one about these events that I cound find. While it also mentions that Deeb is cooperating with authorities, it doesn't mention warrants. Fourth Amendment violation? Who knows. Let's all get on with what we were doing before this "firestorm" erupted and reconvene when we have something solid and legitimate to complain about.

  • Re:The actual law (Score:4, Informative)

    by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:48PM (#24573755) Journal

    "Chemical laboratory apparatus" means any item of equipment designed, made, or adapted to manufacture a controlled substance or a controlled substance analogue, including:

    There you go. Owning these things is not a problem unless they were meant to be used in a drug lab. So if it says "for producing crystal meth" on the box, then you need a permit. Otherwise you're free to use the flask for whatever.

  • by rossz (67331) <ogre.geekbiker@net> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:48PM (#24573777) Homepage Journal

    A few years ago there was an article in the newspaper here (San Francisco Bay area) talking about a big bust and the ARSENAL of weapons they found. Two pistols, a shotgun, and 200 rounds of ammo.

    Hell, I buy ammo in 500 round boxes. Typically I buy two boxes at a time. This is just so I have enough ammo to fire off at the local range.

  • Re:And they say ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by russotto (537200) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:51PM (#24573823) Journal

    If you "consent to search", you've just thrown your Fourth Amedment rights down the toilet for now and forevermore. No more warrant required to search your place; you'ce already consented.

  • Re:Chemicals (Score:3, Informative)

    by nahdude812 (88157) * on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:01PM (#24574019) Homepage

    The police are there as part of public safety and investigation into the possibility of suspicious circumstances behind the fire. They can't search your house without probable cause, but a fire qualifies as probable cause.

  • by kramer2718 (598033) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:06PM (#24574091) Homepage

    Any good fascist state function due to the hard work of strict compliance officers such as Pam Wilderman. Her work phone is (508) 408-4118. Give her a call and congratulate her on her good work.

  • Re:And they say ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:15PM (#24574249) Homepage

    by doing things like this the firefighters are jeopardizing this trust and placing the ability to protect the public safety in danger.

    I'm a volunteer fireman and I can tell you all there have been briefings from Homeland Security and other agencies about looking for suspicious materials, not all of it terrorism related. And it's not just us. Mail carriers, delivery drivers, med techs, utility crews, anyone who might be on your property or in your house on any occasional basis.

    We do have to be alert for drug labs, but most of the times the cops find them first and have their own hazmat teams.

    My question would be if they were working a fire in a window unit on the second floor, what were they doing in the basement?

    The rules for household chemicals aren't always real clear. Sounds like the state and local officials over-reacted. Unless there's a specific regulation that covers some compound he was using, it appears like his property was seized without due process. Unless we've taken another step down the road to a police state I don't think you can just declare something looks dangerous and confiscate it. In which case I could walk into anyones garage and start seizing lawn fertilizer, gasoline, paint thinner, ammonia, insecticides and anything else you might normally have around the house. All that stuff looks dangerous to me.

  • Re:The actual law (Score:3, Informative)

    by lgw (121541) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:17PM (#24574299) Journal

    It's harder to qualify for a concealed carry permit in Texas than in any other state that allows ordinary citizens to carry (scary that the Bill of Rights is ignored so widely).

    You definitely get points for the gun rack, but there's a sundown law in Texas, so that gun rack had better be empty after dark.

  • Re:Call the FBI? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jwiegley (520444) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:26PM (#24574431)

    I don't know about you but I'm not sure I'd want a hobbyist with an extremely large amount of potentially explosive material (stored improperly) doing "experiments" next door to me and my family.

    and THAT sentiment is exactly why a court order should have been obtained first.

    Court proceedings, due process and that sort of thing protect the interests of people like me and the chemist from your interests. You may not want Jewish/black/Muslim people living next door to you either. You might want your house to be taller than all your neighbors. Maybe you want your neighbor to give away most of his excess wealth to your favorite charity. But your "wants" are biased. They have to be mitigated by court order and procedure to ensure that you are not oppressing your neighbors and civilization is being kept fair and balanced. While the firefighters may have obtained knowledge of illegal evidence while performing their duty they are not officers of the peace and therefore the fourth amendment would still apply to his chemistry properties. Yes, the firefighters could make public their knowledge to a judge who could use that second hand testimony to issue a search warrant making the whole thing legal but that never occurred.

    All you have is assumptions about his storage/flammability situation and a personal fantasy of how the world should be. They didn't say which chemicals were stored on furniture. Maybe it was just the harmless Baking Soda-like chemicals he stored on furniture. The more hazardous items may have been stored in a perfectly professional and safed manner. The article also mentioned that nothing was any more hazardous/flammable than what you or I have under our sinks. So I am inclined to believe that your "hobbyist", "extremely large amount", "potentially explosive" and air-quoted "experiments" are all exaggerated descriptions drummed up by your personal fears designed to lure others into accepting what you want based on feelings rather than rational thought. ("I don't know about you" is also a fallacy phrase designed to lure people into adopting an argument out of fear of being different or ostracized rather than solely on the logical merit of the argument.)

    The point is: He *may* have crossed a zoning law. You don't know, I don't know and neither, apparently, do the people that seized his property without court order. He has an unalienable right from unreasonable search AND seizure. Only a judge has the authority to determined what is or is not unreasonable, not firefighters (not even the police). They should have obtained the court order first. Otherwise, what is to prevent them from coming into your house after you have a fire and taking your adult nude fine art paintings? your bible? your Children? Or anything other item or behavior that might offend somebody holding a position of power or in league with an unfriendly neighbor?

    A simple court order would make this whole situation a non-issue.

  • Re:And they say ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Obfuscant (592200) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:35PM (#24574577)
    Yes, we don't want government to tell us that we can't ... end our own lives painlessly when terminally ill,

    Move to Oregon, dude. The state will actually pay for your euthenasia even when it won't pay for treatment. How advanced is THAT!!

  • Re:And they say ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by slarrg (931336) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:40PM (#24574651)
    Actually, it's almost impossible for a household not to be breaking this law. If you own a glass container and a heating device (say a coffee pot) and any substance such as allergy medicine or acetone (nail polish remover, anyone) then you have three items on the list and are in violation of the law. In addition, the law states that the act of owning any combination of three items proves intent to manufacture drugs. This law is so broad that everyone has a drug lab and the intent to produce drugs in Texas.
  • Re:The actual law (Score:2, Informative)

    by WinPimp2K (301497) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:43PM (#24574693)

    Sorry, but I don't think you can hang that one on Texas. The pharmacies I go to for my Drixoral fix all have a cute little sign quoting the relevant section of the USA PATRIOT Act as their authority for demanding ID and stating the penalties for any economies with the truth you may want to take.

    I never realized how much money from home-grown meth labs went into the pockets of the terrorists. I am glad the DOJ has cleared that up for us.

  • Re:And they say ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by snowraver1 (1052510) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:51PM (#24574799)
    30 miles = ~105,600 cubits.

    Converstion posted!
  • by tinkerghost (944862) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:56PM (#24574865) Homepage

    Nope. Zoning and Health should need to go to the court for a warrant at that point; the emergency is past

    No, if your house has a fire & the fire dept comes, it is usually required to be recertified as habitable. So, calling in the the zoning & health inspector is a perfectly normal part of dealing with a fire.

    Zoning and health should not be permitted to not only search but seize the chemicals and dispose of them without so much as a hearing.

    Read the article, Mr. Deep didn't object - no objection, no need for a hearing. If a cop says "I want to look in your trunk" and you say OK & open it, he doesn't need a warrant. Perhaps closer to the point, if he tells you to give him the joint tucked behind your ear so neither of you have to deal with the paperwork of a minor possession charge, he doesn't need a warrant if you comply.

    In this case, health & zoning said "we want to clean this up, go live in a hotel while we do". If Mr Deep had said no, they were within their rights to decert the house for habitation and force it's cleanup by Mr Deep prior to recertification, & he would have been within his rights to fight the decert in court.

  • Re:And they say ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @05:04PM (#24574983)

    They'd need a warrant for that. So no, they didn't assume it was a meth lab, they just chose to raid the home without any legal right to do so.

    That being said, typical household chemicals can make some pretty lethal chemicals when mixed together. Mixing together multiple types of cleaning products has been known to cause some pretty serious illnesses or death.

    Ultimately it's bullshit, any chemistry student, knows not to randomly mix chemicals. And a retired chem prof definitely knows not to. More likely than not, it's less dangerous allowing him to have and use them than it is the general public.

  • Founding fathers (Score:3, Informative)

    by Atrox666 (957601) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @05:06PM (#24575003)
    Well when the INHERENT freedoms of the founding fathers were being tread upon by the "Lawful Authorities" they started shooting them. I'm not suggesting it as a recourse only stating that it is a traditional and patriotic American solution.
  • MassCops Forums (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @07:31PM (#24576635)

    I've dealt with a lot of these Mass cops before - they are very, very frightening people. They are power hungry morons who bash the innocent and have very distorted views of reality.

    They have their own message board.. take a look for yourself if you'd like to be very disturbed:

    http://www.masscops.com/forums/

    Be sure you check out the 'Ask a Cop' help forum where they just make fun of people seriously trying to get help

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @08:19PM (#24577031)
    And by "similar", I mean "warrantless search but they didn't steal my property, although they might as well have". I operated an orchid flasking lab out of my home for 10 years. One day, out of the blue, a plainclothes cop shows up, tells me he has information that I'm growing marijuana, and would I consent to a search of my property. I panicked and said "yes, if you get a uniformed officer to escort you" because anybody can show up and claim to be a cop. Uniform shows up, they go through my crawlspace, attic, every room in the house, the garden shed, and find nothing. They tromp through my (until that point, sterile) lab, which is filled with metal racks and growlights, and probably over $100k worth of other people's orchid seedlings. I show them my business brochures and explain what I'm doing. They leave. No apology, nothing. A few days later I started to notice contamination in my previously sterile flasks. Despite my best efforts, the contamination spread (spider mites) and I lost almost every single flask. All because the cops couldn't be bothered to wipe their feet. I ended up pissing off a lot of customers and losing my business because I let the cops intimidate me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:41PM (#24577635)

    I'm only 29, but I have the same thing to say.

    I have been jailed twice for... nothing. I hire expensive lawyers and everything is dropped an hour before the trial... seems they had no intention of prosecuting, "they did it just to fuck with you" (my lawyer's words)

    I have had some friends who had crimes committed against them and opted NOT to call the police because they were more put off by being prodded by investigators than they were by the actual crime itself.

    That's a sad state...

  • Re:And they say ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bovarchist (782773) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:09AM (#24582565)
    If you read TFA, you will note that the they did not "choose" to raid the home. Firemen were called to put out a fire in an air conditioning unit. While there, they noticed the lab and called the authorities. Granted, they probably over-reacted, but to the un-trained eyes of a fireman, the lab probably looked pretty scary. After the investigation, officials noted that Mr. Deeb had violated zoning laws and some other minor regulations, but that he had been very cooperative and they were not planning on citing him for any crime.
  • Re:And they say ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:45AM (#24583327) Homepage

    Is it possible for the fire to travel between the walls down into a finished basement?

    Usually it goes up but yeah, especially in older homes. That's what the horizontal braces between studs are supposed to do in modern construction. Keeps a fire downstairs from using the wall space between studs as a chimney to the attic.

    To answer your question about our thermal cam...from the outside, it depends on the home construction and how well it's insulated. Usually no. And through a concrete basement wall, not at all.

    It does probably make sense they were going to cut the breaker to the outlet, just to be safe. In older homes the breaker boxes are usually in the basement. Few homes here have basements or are that old. And if you see a large quantity of chemical, even if it's not obviously hazardous, it would be SOP to report it.

    I'd still maintain the responding agencies may have over-reacted but after thinking it over, I'm not certain they would have many options. In densely populated areas your discretionary threshold will be a lot lower. Out here, where it's a 1/2 mile to the neighbors house and we're dealing with someone we've known for years, we can exercise a little more flexibility. It's not really fair to compare how we have handled similar situations. It still sucks that people doing things off-normal but not threatening get swept up in the same mechanisms as people being really stupid, or doing something truly dangerous and potentially life-threatening. You can always escalate the level of response but it's tough to unring the bell when you call in the cavalry.

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