The discovery of a suspected drug lab, once a common occurrence but now rare, led police Tuesday to cordon off a neighborhood in southwest Grants Pass and call in hazardous material teams.

Lt. Todd Moran said the Rogue Area Drug Enforcement team located an apparent drug lab of an "unknown type" while conducting a search at 1917 S.W. K St.

Police evacuated two neighboring houses as a precautionary measure, and a Grants Pass Fire and Rescue truck was stationed on scene.

Police cordoned off K Street at the corner of Wagner Meadows Drive due to the ongoing investigation. Police requested assistance from Medford's hazardous materials team as well as an Oregon State Police hazmat team from the Portland area.

Two people were in custody in connection with the lab. Jessica Nicole Cowart, 24, and Aaron Beard Parkinson, 34, were booked in the Josephine County Jail for possession of meth.

Moran said a third occupant of the house was interviewed but was released from the scene.

He also confirmed that the lab equipment could be used to make methamphetamine, however "several specific precursor chemicals were absent at the scene and, therefore, at this time there is not a legal basis for a charge of manufacture of methamphetamine."

Meth labs used to be far more prevalent in Josephine County but have declined precipitously in the last decade.

In 2001, the county reported 62 busts of meth labs, but in 2006 there was only one. For the next three years, the county did not see a single meth lab bust. Similarly, the state reported 472 busts in 2004, falling to just 10 in 2009.

The dramatic decline has been attributed mainly to the fact that a key material used to make meth, pseudoephedrine, which had been available over the counter, was placed behind the prescription counter in 2006. Limiting access to the drug has had a drastic affect on low-level criminals being able to manufacture meth, according to law enforcement.

— Reach reporter Troy Shinn at 541-474-3806 or tshinn@thedailycourier.com