Mary Kay Rich walked her shih tzus daily on Lebrun Road, an upscale enclave in Amherst where most homes sell for between $450,000 and $1 million.
But on Saturday night Rich noticed “police activity,” the first she can recall in the 16 years of living on Lebrun. So she decided to investigate.
“I walked over there and I met the police officer,” said Rich, who is energetic at 79. “He was sitting in his car right here,” she said, pointing in the direction of Lebrun Circle. “There were a lot of official cars parked there. He said they were investigating chemical activity.”
The investigation – prompted at 4 p.m. by a resident’s complaint of an odor of natural gas – would continue through the night and into Sunday morning, said Amherst police, who called in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Clandestine Lab Enforcement Team and State Police Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team.
In a statement issued at 4:47 a.m., Amherst police confirmed that a National Fuel technician dispatched to a Lebrun Circle address “discovered what appeared to be potentially hazardous chemicals in an apartment located above a detached garage.”
State Police and federal agents “remediated the potential hazard and processed the scene,” the police statement read. “No injuries were reported and there was no risk to neighboring residents.”
State Police and Amherst police declined to give further information on the nature of the chemical activity but a source close to the investigation indicated the Lebrun Circle apartment may have contained an Ecstasy laboratory.
Ecstasy, also known as MDMA or molly, is an illegal drug that is sold either as a pressed pill taken orally, or as a powder that is snorted or swallowed. Its effects resemble those of both stimulants and psychedelics.
A source close to the investigation also said an air sample determined no chemical traces in the air.
Also responding to the scene were the Amherst emergency services coordinator, Eggertsville Hose Company and Brighton Volunteer Fire Company No. 5 Hazardous Material Response Team.
“I can’t remember any ruckus of any kind, shape or form in this neighborhood,” Rich said. “It’s very quiet and I walk at night. I never saw one sign of any incident. My husband and I used to walk, and I still walk 2 miles a day.”
The reports of a possible drug lab in the neighborhood shocked Rich, who recalled a time 20 years ago when she lived in Xenia, Ohio, before she married Paul J. Rich Jr. At the time, she operated a real estate company, and she owned several rental properties. Rich remembered she was watching television news when she saw one of her properties as the subject of a narcotics investigation.
“The house that I owned with my tenant in it was being raided for drugs,” said Rich. “They were making the drugs from chemicals, too. When the police told me last night they were investigating chemical activity, that’s the first thing I thought of.”
Rich described her Amherst neighborhood as quiet and upscale with neighbors tending to keep to themselves.
“Other than last night, this is probably the most activity you’ll see here,” Rich said, pointing to a man mowing the lawn.