by: Dave Faherty Updated:
WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. - It could be the biggest meth lab bust the Carolinas has ever seen and it is within walking distance of Appalachian State University.
Sheriff's deputies spent three days cleaning up the dozens of shake and bake labs.
Eyewitness News found out on Friday why no one knew the operation was there.
Sheriff deputies said an informant tipped them about the labs.
The labs were located in the woods near the college campus that is just a few blocks away.
A small wooden shack was built on the hillside on county-owned property off of Highway 105.
Nearby narcotics officers found 181 shake and bake labs with thousands of discarded pill packets for the drug pseudoephedrine -- a key ingredient for making meth.
An undercover narcotics officer agreed to take us to the location of the lab if we didn't show his face. He believes they cooked here twice a day.
"Covered in black plastic and tarps. It had netting around it to help conceal it. In the summer time, you couldn't have seen it," he said.
Across the street, Eyewitness News spotted students from ASU running right by where the lab was located.
Because of its size, an environmental cleanup company was called in to haul away 200 pounds of hazardous waste.
"That's crazy. So crazy to think that it is near Appalachians campus," said student Lindsey Bradley.
"Kind of know that stuff like that goes on in this area but I didn't realize that big one was over here," said student Lauren Natale.
Sheriff Len Hagaman said one person is already in jail in connection with the lab but he believes there are dozens of others who helped cook the drug.
"For an operation like this to go on undetected until the leaves fell off and got some good information is very surprising...chilling," said Hagaman.
Deputies said because it is an ongoing investigation they are not releasing the name of a man taken into custody.
They said they expect to make more arrests in the case.