Meth labs impact housing
“We have a scary issue for landlords because of what the meth labs leave behind,” Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman said to the City of Washington Housing Improvement Task Force Monday evening. “We’ve got three buildings shut down right now and a potential for a fourth.”
Goodman was invited to speak to the task force about the problems the police force is seeing in the community. Goodman began speaking about meth.
“ I think it’s a transient society now and we’re just experiencing a lot of different things on a lot of different problems,” he said. “One of the most recent things that we’re seeing again is meth labs.”
The increase of meth labs is due to how meth is being cooked now, Goodman said. Previously, people were making meth with ether and anhydrous ammonia, which was easy to detect by the smell.
“People on the outside of the residences or in the apartment building, they could smell it,” Goodman said. “Or even an officer on patrol could smell it. We’d have them investigate and track it down to a specific location. We’d get a search warrant and we’d have a meth lab.”
With the one-pot method people can buy over-the-counter items such as pseudoephedrine and use a small bottle to mix the items together, he said. Once the process begins it can be done within an hour. It can also be cooked inside a building.
“What we find is, a lot of people we’re dealing with, they really don’t care,” Goodman said. “To be real honest with you, they don’t care about themselves or the way their property looks or the way they live.”
Goodman said the State of Iowa has no codes for meth cleanup. Instead the cities have to enforce it.
Karen Gorham, chairperson of the City of Washington Housing Improvement Task Force, asked if there was anything the task force could suggest to assist with the cleanup process.
“I had no idea there were no state codes,” Gorham said.
The City of Washington has meth cleanup as a part of their city code because it becomes a safety issue for others in the area, Goodman said.
Mayor Sandra Johnson asked if there was a state code in Iowa where the property insurance carrier must clean up after meth.
“I sense that as these incidents increase, there’s going to be pressure from the insurance lobby that they can back away,” she said. “So landlords would be carrying the brunt.”
There have been a couple of houses in the past that have participated in meth cleanup and they had to be stripped, Goodman said.
“Because if you’re making it in the house the house is pretty much saturated,” Goodman said. “Everything in the house goes.”
The process for cleaning up meth residue is very expensive.
Steve Donnolly, building and zoning administrator for the City of Washington, used the Goncho Apartments as an example.
“In the last testing they had about 45 samples,” Donnolly said. “That round of those 45 samples cost a little over $8,000. This is not a cheap proposition.”
Donnolly went onto explain the process the landlords have to go through to have their buildings declared livable again.
“”All the meth houses and the meth buildings we have right now, it’s unsafe to occupy—that’s how we do it per the code,” Donnolly said. “They have to prove to us, the city, that it’s safe to inhabit before we let anybody in.”
The one thing the city code doesn’t have is a time limit as to when the building has to be cleaned up.
“We’re working on that right now,” Donnolly said. “We’re trying to work on the label aspect of that.”
The city requires a retest done before anyone is allowed to occupy the building, Goodman said.