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Eighty-eight-year-old retired metallurgist Bob Wallace is a self-described tinkerer, but he hardly thinks of himself as the Thomas Edison of the illegal drug world.
He has nothing to hide. His product is packaged by hand in a cluttered Saratoga garage. It's stored in a garden shed in the backyard. The whole operation is guarded by an aged, congenial dog named Buddy.
But federal and state drug enforcement agents are coming down hard on Wallace's humble homemade solution, which he concocted to help backpackers purify water.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and state regulators say druggies can use the single ingredient in his "Polar Pure" water purifier -- iodine -- to make crystal meth.
Wallace says federal and state agents have effectively put him out of business, because authorities won't clear the way for him to buy or sell the iodine he needs for his purification bottles. He has been rejected for a state permit by the Department of Justice and is scheduled to appeal his case before an administrative judge in Sacramento next month.