‘I would want to know’City council learns of aftereffects of meth labs during presentation
The State of Iowa is one of the top states in the country for the manufacture of methamphetamine – an addictive and illegal stimulant – and one of the top states not to address the problem.
Lack of state laws governing the cleanup of sites that have formerly housed meth labs came up during the Washington City Council’s work session Wednesday evening. Police Chief Greg Goodman and Sgt. Ron See discussed the meth problem that Washington has seen. While there have been many arrests lately – at least five labs have been raided since the beginning of the year – the problem started as far back as the late 1990s, Goodman said. Three buildings have also been declared off-limits due to residue created by a meth lab, and two more are being tested.
“We think it is going to happen where one of the building owners may ask for a hearing from city council on whether to continue the abatement,” Goodman said. “I think it is important for the council to understand a little about meth and some of the cleanup issues.”
Goodman said he attended a seminar recently held by meth lab cleanup expert Joe Mazuka. He said all the properties in Washington that have been tested for residue had been tested by someone Mazuka had certified.
During the presentation, Goodman played a graphic tape of someone who was on meth. The person on the tape was yelling and threatening officers and their families.
See showed a slide show of materials seized when meth labs had been raided. The items included cold pill containers, coffee filters and plastic bottles with tubes coming from them. He referred to the bottles as “generators.”
During discussion of the manner in which meth is created, Goodman spoke of the one-pot method, which is becoming more popular in Washington County. It uses a plastic bottle to make the meth and gives off no scent. The labs can also explode. Goodman also talked about cooking meth using red phosphorus, which he said is very hazardous. He said when phosphorous comes into contact with water, which can happen if someone if cleaning up a stain of phosphorous on a carpet, it gives off a deadly gas.
During discussion Goodman said that the police department offers to give informative talks on meth to landlords and other interested parties. He said the talks can be tailored to teaching landlords what to look for. Anyone interested in scheduling a session can call the police department at 653-2256.
“If I were a landlord I would want to know,” council member Bob Shepherd said. “Landlords are going to have to consider an insurance policy that can cover this, and insurance companies are going to demand they be up on what to watch for. Look at the ones we have had so far where they have ended up with huge reconstruction costs. They may not want to, but they better start understanding what they should watch for.”
Shepherd said the city needs to focus on prevention.
After raids, several buildings in town have been declared “dangerous properties” which are uninhabitable. The City of Washington has a code that covers the cleanup of meth labs — the “dangerous building” code, chapter 145 — but the state doesn’t.
Goodman discussed some of the lasting effects of the remnants of a meth lab until the area is properly cleaned. He showed several news articles where people had bought homes that, unbeknownst to them, had previously held meth labs. The new owners’ children had gotten perpetually sick while living in the houses.
“Once a building has been a meth lab, it can be rendered safe,” Goodman said. “As the city I think we need to make sure it is made safe before someone else buys it or someone else rents it.”