The chairman of the House committee that oversees the National Institute of Standards and Technology is asking for an investigation into an explosion that occurred at a potential meth lab at the agency's Gaithersburg campus on Saturday.
Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker requesting more information into the explosion and its apparent connection to drug manufacturing. Commerce oversees the tech agency.
"According to the Associated Press, the explosion may have been connected to a NIST security officer who was injured in the explosion. If these initial claims are verified, the fact that this explosion took place at a taxpayer-funded NIST facility potentially endangering NIST employees is of great concern," Smith said.
A federal law enforcement official told AP that the explosion appeared to be connected to the security officer's efforts to make methamphetamine. Authorities responding to the explosion found pseudoephedrine, Epsom salt and other items used to manufacture the illegal, highly addictive drug, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Those materials also included a drain opener and a recipe for making meth, federal officials told TV station NBC4.
Smith demanded a "briefing as soon as possible," but no later than July 29. He also called for weekly updates on the investigation.
"As chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over NIST, I am troubled by the allegations that such dangerous and illicit activity went undetected at a federal research facility. It is essential that we determine exactly where the breakdown in protocol occurred and whether similar activities could be ongoing at other federal facilities. I look forward to working with NIST to ensure that researchers at our nation's high-tech labs are safe from this sort of criminal activity," Smith said.
The security officer, who has not been named, resigned effective Sunday, NIST said.