ELK, Wash. - A large indoor marijuana grow was discovered last week after Inland Power and Light found an abnormal use of electricity at a building in the Elk area. The Spokane County Sheriff's Office and Spokane Regional Drug Task Force seized nearly 100 marijuana plants from the illegal grow.
The investigation began because someone in the area called the power company to report an outage. Crews responded to the outage and found that a transformer supplying power to the area had literally melted from so much electricity being used.
"Our crews were responding to an outage, went out and located the problem, replaced the transformer and then it failed again after six hours," said Jennifer Lutz, the communications manager at Inland Power and Light.
After the new transformer failed just six hours after being replaced, crews knew something was going on and alerted the authorities.
An operation like the one in Elk poses a large safety and fire risk for the surrounding community.
"You are working with live electrical, so it can be deadly," Lutz said.
"The danger that this person put the community up in the Elk area in as well, you know, you have folks that rely on medical equipment to survive daily, whether it is dialysis or any other type of instrument or mechanism that requires electricity," said Deputy Craig Chamberlin with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office."
Indoor marijuana grows require three to ten times the electricity demands of the average household. In this case, the person had actually drilled into the power line in the ground to bypass the meter. This allows criminals to steal large amounts of power without it showing up on the electric bill.
"They were able to determine power was being diverted, so our crews went out again to find the location and remove the illegal connect," Lutz said.
At the marijuana grow in Elk, police seized more than three dozen 1,000 watt lights and 99 marijuana plants from two different rooms.
Police say there are things to look for to determine if something like this could be happening in your neighborhood.
"You see heavy traffic to a residence, you see suspicious people, activity or vehicles in your neighborhood that you know are not common in your neighborhood that pretty much do not belong there, don't hesitate, call us," Chamberlin said.
At this point the investigation is still ongoing, so the name of the suspect has not been released and no charges related to the illegal grow have been filed.