Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Take this story with a grain of salt.
It started last week when police reported that a Portales motel guest was hit in the eye with a shard of methamphetamine from a sink faucet. Then, police found more of the substance in an ice machine.
Authorities concluded a large amount of meth had made its way into the water system of the Super 8 by Wyndham Portales, shut down the motel, called on a hazmat team and tested the city’s water supply, growing concerned it had also been tainted.
But further testing revealed a different crystal-like substance: sodium chloride – or salt.
A Super 8 manager said the motel reopened Monday.
“All I know is that we had a water break and then they got the water line fixed,” the manager told the Journal on Thursday.
When asked about the meth angle, she replied wearily, “I have seen the articles, yes.”
The incident was first detailed in posts on the Portales Police Department’s Facebook page, which led to a flurry of shares and snark such as “keeping it classy Portales,” “no wonder the water bill was so high” and “I wonder if there is a pool?”
The Facebook posts led to local, national and even international headlines, including from the New Zealand Herald and People magazine, the latter of which read “Motel Guest Claims They Were Hit in Eye by Meth Shot Out of Faucet.”
The Portales Police Department did not respond to calls and messages seeking comment.
New Mexico State Police spokesman Dusty Francisco said the agency’s hazmat team was “on standby” but never utilized as the substance was determined to be sodium chloride. He said it was believed to have been from a faulty mesh that allowed water softener crystals to release into the system. Francisco said the method used to test the crystals can erroneously test sodium chloride as positive for meth.
The mystery began Sept. 17.
Portales Police said on Facebook that a guest had a piece of meth strike them in the eye after it came out of a faucet. The person was uninjured.
Police said the substance was found in another sink and “multiple locations” of the motel, including an ice machine.
“It was determined that the substance was confirmed to be methamphetamine and the investigation continued,” the post reads. “It was later found that a large amount of methamphetamine had been introduced to the building’s water system and then continued throughout the building.”
The city of Portales cut the water service to the motel to “stop the potential for contamination” to the city’s water supply, according to police. Police said additional testing by a TruNarc device provided an “inconclusive result” and the case was still under investigation as of Saturday.
“As with any incident that creates concern for the citizens of Portales and our guests, (the) City is only testing for precautionary measures but at this time the city water is safe,” the post reads.
Police never provided any updates on Facebook – and commenters piled on, spouting conspiracy theories, worries about children drinking meth-infused water and bemoaning the effects it would have on the image of the eastern New Mexico city known for its peanut-growing and dairy farms.
“Someone knew about this already and is trying to cover it up. There’s has to be many involved. All of sudden this happens. I hope it goes into deep investigation cause it has a lot (to do with) what’s happening in our town of Portales,” one man wrote.
Said another, “There is just so much about it that don’t make sense.”
“I have a feeling that this is not what they think, a lot of these test(s) have been proven unreliable, we will see,” another person wrote.
How right they were.