Methamphetamine use has been an issue in Missouri for several years, and we can help you determine if the house that you are considering buying has a history with meth, or if you are concerned for your family and children’s safety.
Guidelines for Cleaning up Former Meth Labs
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ (DHSS) Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology has created these basic guidelines to assist property owners and the general public in cleaning up former meth lab properties.
Why are we producing these guidelines?
Meth labs, used to make the illegal drug methamphetamine, are discovered in houses, apartments, motel rooms, sheds, and even motor vehicles. In 1999, federal, state and local authorities were involved in the seizure of more than 900 labs in Missouri alone, and the number of meth labs seized by law enforcement agencies increases each year.
As agencies seek to restrict the products needed to make methamphetamine, the methods and the locations of its production are changing. This adds to the difficulty health and environmental agencies face in assessing meth related health risks.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ (DHSS) Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology has created these basic guidelines to assist property owners and the general public in cleaning up former meth lab properties.
How can you find out if a property has been used to make meth?
Currently, there is no comprehensive method for tracking or listing properties that were used as meth labs. You should call your local law enforcement agency to confirm that a seizure of chemicals took place on the property, and to obtain the name of any hazardous materials contractor who may have removed materials. The contractor should have information on what chemicals were present on the property. Additional information may be obtained from your county health department, fire department, or the owner of the property.
Why the concern about cleaning up illegal meth labs?
Properties used to produce meth will usually be found with a lab-like setting; including containers of chemicals, heat sources, and various types of lab equipment. Typically, after a lab is discovered by law enforcement, the bulk of any lab-related debris, such as chemicals and containers, is removed. However, it is possible a small amount of contamination is left on surfaces and in absorbent materials (carpets, furniture), sinks, drains, and ventilation systems. Though found in small amounts, meth lab contaminants may pose health threats to persons exposed to them.
What are the meth lab contaminants?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), working with DHSS, has been seeking to identify contaminants found at former meth lab properties throughout Missouri. There are different “recipes” for making meth, each using different ingredients. The making of meth can also be performed in different stages at different locations. EPA has collected environmental samples from properties after meth labs were seized. EPA concentrated its sampling efforts on areas to which a resident would most likely come in contact with contamination, such as a property’s surfaces and indoor air – but EPA also collected samples from containers, soil, drains, filters, ductwork, etc.
DHSS has examined sampling results and found many chemicals, not related to meth labs, that can be found in most homes. The more common household chemicals can be found in carpet, household cleaners, and paints. These chemicals include: benzene, methylene chloride, trichloroethane, and toluene. It is suspected that meth-related chemicals include solvents such as paint thinners, phosphorous from matches and road flares, lithium strips from lithium batteries, sodium metal, and anhydrous ammonia which is often found in insulated coolers and small propane cylinders.
What are possible health effects from exposure to meth lab contaminants?
Many of the contaminants present during meth’s cooking process can be harmful if someone is exposed to them. These contaminants can cause health problems including respiratory (breathing) problems, skin and eye irritation, headaches, nausea, and dizziness. Acute (short-term) exposures to high concentrations of some of these chemicals, such as those law enforcement officers face when they first enter a lab, can cause severe health problems including lung damage and burns to different parts of the body.
There is little known about the health effects from chronic (long-term) exposure to contaminants left behind after a meth lab is dismantled. Until the contaminants have been identified, their quantities measured, and their health effects known, DHSS advises property owners to exercise caution and use the safest possible cleaning practices in dealing with a former meth lab property and any possible remaining contamination.
How can the property be cleaned up?
There is currently no official guidance or regulations on how to clean up a former meth lab property for reoccupation. DHSS is working to find an answer that will protect the public and be practical for property owners. Responses across the country to the cleanup of these properties have ranged from doing nothing to complete demolition. Until a cleanup standard is determined, DHSS advises owners to do their best to thoroughly clean up these properties.
DHSS believes the safest way to clean up a former meth lab is to hire environmental companies trained in hazardous substance removal and cleanup. Owners who clean their own properties should be aware that household building materials and furniture can absorb contaminants and give off fumes. Use caution and wear clothing to protect your skin, such as gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection during cleaning.
Some general guidelines include:
- Airing out the property
- After a lab is seized by law enforcement officials, professionals trained to handle hazardous materials are generally called in to remove lab waste and any bulk chemicals. During this removal, every effort is made to air out the property for the safety of the removal crew. For security reasons, the property is usually closed upon their departure. However, this short-term airing-out may not be sufficient to clear out all contaminants from the air inside the home. Be sure the property has been aired out for several days before cleaning. After the initial airing out, good ventilation should be continued throughout the property’s cleanup.
To promote the volatilization (dissolving into the air) of some types of chemicals, windows and doors may be closed and the temperature inside the properties increased to approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit for a few days. After cleaning and heating is complete, the property should be aired out for three to five days to allow for any volatiles to disperse from the house. Open all the windows and set up exhaust fans to circulate air out of the building. During this time, the property should remain off limits unless it is necessary to make short visits to the property.
After the cleaning and final three to five days of airing-out, the property should be checked for re-staining and odors, which would indicate that the initial cleaning was not successful, and further, more extensive steps should be taken.
- Contamination removal and disposal
- During the meth cooking process, vapors are given off that can spread and be absorbed by nearby materials. Spilled chemicals, supplies and equipment can further contaminate non-lab items. It is a good idea to remove unnecessary items from the property and dispose of them properly. Items that are visibly contaminated should be removed from the property and may be disposed of in a local landfill.
If you find suspicious containers or lab equipment at the property, do not handle them yourself. Leave the area and contact your local law enforcement agency or fire department. It is possible that some items may have been left behind after a seizure. If the property has been searched by a hazardous materials cleanup team, the items have most likely been identified and are not dangerous. However, some properties may not have been searched or some items may have been overlooked in the debris or confusion of a seizure.
Absorbent materials, such as carpeting, drapes, clothing, etc. can accumulate vapors that are dispersed through the air during the cooking process. They also may collect dust and powder from the chemicals involved in the manufacturing process. It is recommended that these materials be disposed of properly, especially if an odor or discoloration is present.
- Surfaces, such as walls, counters, floors, ceilings, etc. are porous and can hold contamination from the meth cooking process, especially in those areas where the cooking and preparation were performed. Cleaning these areas is very important as people may come in frequent contact with these surfaces through skin, food preparation, etc.
If a surface has visible contamination or staining, complete removal and replacement of that surface section is recommended. This could include removal and replacement of wallboard, floor coverings and counters. If this is not possible, intensive cleaning followed by the application of a physical barrier such as paint or epoxy is recommended. These areas should be monitored and the barrier maintained to assure that the contamination is contained.
Normal household cleaning methods and products should remove any remaining contamination. Don’t forget to wear gloves, protective clothing, such as long sleeves, and eye protection. Again, ventilation of the property should be continued throughout the cleaning process.
- Ventilation System
- Ventilation systems (heating, air conditioning) tend to collect fumes and dust and redistribute them throughout a home. The vents, ductwork, filters, and even the walls and ceilings near ventilation ducts can become contaminated. Replace all of the air filters in the system, remove and clean vents, clean the surfaces near system inlets and outlets, and clean the system’s ductwork.
- While some of the waste products generated during meth manufacture may be thrown along the sides of roads or in yards, most are dumped down sinks, drains, and toilets. These waste products can collect in drains, traps, and septic tanks and give off fumes. If a strong chemical odor is coming from household plumbing, do not attempt to address the problem yourself; rather, contact a plumbing contractor for professional advice or assistance. If you suspect the septic tank or yard may be contaminated, contact the local health department.
- When a surface has been cleaned, painting that surface should be considered, especially in areas where contamination was found or suspected. If there is any remaining contamination that cleaning did not remove, painting the surface puts a barrier between the contamination and anyone who may come in contact with those surfaces. Even on those areas that people do not normally touch, painting will cover up and “lock” the contamination onto the surface, reducing the chances that it would be released into the air.
Should testing be done after cleanup?
If, after cleaning your residence using these guidelines, you are concerned about any remaining contamination, or if your property still has an odor, visible staining, or causes physical irritation to those exposed, it is advisable to have the property evaluated and tested. Also, if you are concerned with liability issues, you should consider having the property tested. Sampling is an expensive option, but may provide peace of mind for property owners and families. You may want to contact your insurance carrier for advice and assistance.
Remember these steps to cleaning a former meth property:
- Determine if the property was used for meth production.
- Air out the property before and during cleanup.
- Remove all unnecessary items and dispose of them.
- Remove visibly contaminated items or items that have an odor.
- Clean all surfaces using household cleaning methods and proper personal protection.
- Clean the ventilation system.
- Leave plumbing cleanup to the experts.
- Air out the property for three to five days.
- If odor or staining remains, have your home evaluated by a professional.
Bill 6204, Sponsored by Mayor Hennessy, an Ordinance amending Section 220.130 of the O’Fallon City Code relating to abatement of public nuisances relating to drug activity.
ORDINANCE NO. 5808
Sponsored by: Mayor Hennessy
AN ORDINANCE AMENDING SECTION 220.130 OF THE O’FALLON CITY CODE RELATING TO ABATEMENT OF PUBLIC NUISANCES RELATING TO DRUG ACTIVITY.
WHEREAS, activity associated with the production, manufacture, storage and sale of controlled substances constitute a public nuisance which disrupts the public health, safety and welfare; and
WHEREAS, such nuisances also disrupt the peace of nearby residents, diminish property values and disrupt the contentment and peaceable enjoyment of nearby property owners; and
WHEREAS, it is the desire and intent of the Mayor and City Council to enhance and update City’s ability to cause the prompt cessation and effective abatement of such nuisances in order to protect the public health, safety and welfare;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF O’FALLON, MISSOURI, AS FOLLOWS:
Section 1. Section 220.130 of Article III of Chapter 220 of Title II of the Code of Ordinances of the City of O’Fallon, Missouri, is hereby repealed and a new Section 220.130 is hereby enacted in lieu thereof to read as follows:
TITLE II. PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELFARE
CHAPTER 220: NUISANCES
ARTICLE III. MISCELLANEOUS NUISANCES
SECTION 220.130: DRUG ACTIVITY –PUBLIC NUISANCE
A. Nuisance Prohibited. Every person who owns, resides in, uses or is responsible for an inhabitable structure shall take all possible action to prevent said inhabitable structure from being the site of any illegal use, possession or selling of a controlled substance or the site of the possession of methamphetamine precursors and/or chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine for the purpose of manufacturing methamphetamine and related substances or the site where any controlled substance is manufactured illegally, and any inhabitable structure which is the site of such activity is hereby declared to be a public nuisance.
B. Definitions. For this purpose of this Section, the following terms shall be defined as follows: CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE: Any substance so classified under Section 102(6) of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. Section 802W and includes all substances listed in Schedules I through V of 21 CFR Part 1308 as they may be revised from time to time; and any controlled substance as defined in Chapter 195, RSMo., in effect upon the passage of or as amended and any controlled substance defined as such in this Code.
INHABITABLE STRUCTURE: Any structure or portion of a structure, regardless of whether any person is actually present, in which:
- Any person lives or carries on business or other calling;
- People assemble for purposes of business, government, education, religion, entertainment or public transportation; or
- Persons are accommodated overnight. The following terms related to the production or manufacture of methamphetamine and related drugs shall mean:
CHEMICAL USED IN THE MANUFACTURE OF METHAMPHETAMINE: A chemical or substance which is commonly used in the manufacture of methamphetamine or related drugs and is an immediate chemical intermediary used or likely to be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine and related drugs including, but not limited to: Anthranilic acid, its esters and its salts; Benzyl cyanide; Ergotamine and its salts; Ergonovine and its salts; N-Acetylanthranilic acid, its esters and its salts; Phenylacetic acid, its esters and its salts; Piperidine and its salts; 3,4,-Methylenedioxyphenyl-2-propanone; Acetic anhydride; Acetone; Benzyl Chloride; Ethyl ether; Hydriodic acid; Potassium permanganate; 2-Butanone (or Methyl Ethyl Ketone or MEK); Thluene; Ephedrine, its salts, optical isomers, and salts of optical isomers; Norpseudoephedrine, its salts, optical isomers, and salts of optical isomers; Phenyipropanolamine, its salts, optical isomers, and salts of optical isomers; Pseudoephedrine, its salts, optical isomers, and salts of optical isomers; Methylamine and its salts; Ethylamine and its salts; Propionic anhydride; Isosafrole; Safrole; Piperonal; N-Methylephedrine, its salts, optical isomers and salts of optical isomers; N-Methylpseudoephedrine, its salts, optical isomers and salts of optical isomers; Benzaldehyde; Nitroethane; Methyl Isobutyl Ketone (MIBIO); Sulfuric acid; Iodine; Red phosphorous; Gamma butyrolactone; 1,4 Butanediol.
MANUFACTURE OF METHAMPHETAMINE: The production, preparation, propagation, compounding or processing of methamphetamine and/or related drugs by way of either directly or by extraction from substances of natural origin, or independently by means of chemical synthesis, or by a combination of extraction and chemical synthesis. The possession of more than twenty-four (24) grams of any methamphetamine precursor drug or combination of methamphetamine precursor drugs shall be prima facie evidence of the manufacturing or production of methamphetamine.
METHAMPHETAMINE PRECURSOR DRUG: Any drug containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, phenylpropanolamine or any of their salts, optical isomers or salts of optical isomers.
PRODUCTION: The manufacture of a controlled substance.
C. Notice Of Public Nuisances. Whenever the City Attorney or the Prosecuting Attorney of the City receives notice that:
- A search warrant has been issued and executed for any inhabitable structure in the City and that controlled substances have been confiscated as a result of said search warrant; or
- An arrest has been made in any inhabitable structure in the City and that controlled substances have been confiscated as a result of said arrest; or
- A search warrant has been issued and executed for any inhabitable structure in the City and that a methamphetamine precursor drug and two (2) or more chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine were discovered as a result of said search warrant, then the City Attorney or the Prosecuting Attorney may cause a “notice of public nuisance” to be served on the owners and tenants of said inhabitable structure, advising them that the property may be declared a public nuisance by the Building Official or his/her designee either immediately or in the event of any subsequent use of the inhabitable structure for the illegal use, possession, production or sale of controlled substance. Said notice shall be given in accordance with this Section.
All notices required herein shall be served by means of certified mail, return receipt requested, sent to the last known address of the intended recipient. In the event said notice is not received within ten (10) days of the original mailing, posting said notice in a conspicuous place at the inhabitable structure described therein shall be sufficient and notice shall be deemed received on the date of posting. It shall be unlawful to mutilate or remove any notice posted on or about an inhabitable structure under authority of this Section.
D. Multiple Or Subsequent Incidents Or Involvement Of Methamphetamine. If:
- The City Attorney or Prosecuting Attorney believes that there have been two (2) or more instances of illegal use, possession, production or selling of controlled substances at the inhabitable structure within a three (3) year period; or
- Within three (3) years of sending the “notice of public nuisance” the City Attorney or Prosecuting Attorney receives notice of a subsequent use of the inhabitable structure for the illegal use, possession, production or sale of controlled substances; or
- The City Attorney or Prosecuting Attorney believes that the evidence shows that methamphetamine precursor drugs and chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine found at the inhabitable structure were for the purpose of manufacturing methamphetamine, the City Attorney or Prosecuting Attorney shall notify the Building Official or his/her designee of said fact. The Building Official shall thereafter send a notice to all owners and tenants that a public nuisance may exist under this Chapter and that any such nuisance must be abated within thirty (30) days of sending of the notice. Said notice shall be given in accordance with Subsection (C) this Section.
E. Failure To Abate Prohibited. It shall be unlawful for any person or entity that is sent or receives notice of a public nuisance under this Chapter to fail to take all possible action to abate and bring about termination and non-resumption of said public nuisance.
F. Determination Of Nuisance And Abatement.
- If the Building Official believes that a public nuisance may exist at the expiration of the thirty (30) day period after sending the notice or posting of the notice, he/she shall give notice to all owners and tenants by certified mail that the Building Official shall hold a hearing at the time and place specified therein for the purpose of determining whether a public nuisance exists. Any such notice shall be given at least twenty-one (21) days prior to the scheduled hearing and shall also be posted on the inhabitable structure which shall be sufficient and notice shall be deemed received on the date of posting.
- Each interested person shall be given an opportunity at the hearing to present evidence under oath and to be represented by counsel. The Building Official shall have the power, on his/her own motion, to subpoena witnesses and to take testimony, under oath, pertaining to all relevant matters. The Building Official may continue all or part of a hearing, if necessary, to conclude the investigation.
- If, based on all the evidence adduced, the Building Official shall determine that the use of the inhabitable structure for the illegal use, production, sale or possession of drugs, methamphetamine precursor drugs or chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine or the attempted manufacture of methamphetamine is a significant, continuous and unreasonable interference with the rights common to all members of the community in general, such as public health, safety, peace, morals or convenience, he/she may: a. Order the discontinuance of such use of the inhabitable structure where a public nuisance exists; and/or b. Order the closing of said inhabitable structure as necessary to abate the public nuisance, as described hereafter.
- In determining whether an inhabitable structure should be closed as a result of the existence of a public nuisance under this Chapter, the Building Official shall consider, in addition to other relevant factors, the impact of the closure on innocent parties; however, the lack of knowledge of, acquiescence in, participation in or responsibility for a public nuisance on the part of the owners, lessors, lessees, mortgagees and all other persons in possession or having charge of as agent or otherwise or having an interest in the inhabitable structure used in conducting or maintaining the public nuisance shall not be a defense by such persons or entities.
- Results of the hearing shall be mailed to the owners and tenants by means of certified mail, return receipt requested. Any interested person or organization present at the hearing may request a copy of the Building Official’s order. A copy of said order shall also be posted on the inhabitable structure within seventy-two (72) hours of the decision. Thirty (30) calendar days after the posting of an order issued pursuant to this Section, officers of the O’Fallon Police Department are authorized to act upon and enforce such orders.
G. Appeal Of Building Official’s Order. The decision of the Building Official may be appealed by filing an appeal, on such forms as prescribed by the City, with the City Administrator within seven (7) days from the Building Official’s decision. The appeal form shall set forth, at a minimum, the detailed grounds for such appeal and such further information as requested on the appeal form. The City Administrator shall review the decision of the Building Official either, within the Administrator’s sole discretion, upon the record previously made or upon a new hearing and shall issue a written decision to all parties. Such decision shall be subject to judicial review pursuant to Ch. 536, RSMo. in the Circuit Court of St. Charles County by filing an appropriate petition for judicial review within fifteen (15) days of the Administrator’s decision.
H. Enforcement Of Closure Order.
- When the Building Official orders the closing of an inhabitable structure under this Chapter, such closing shall be for a period as the Building Official may direct, but in no event shall the closing be for a period longer than one (1) year from the date of the posting of the order. If the owner, lessor or lessee shall submit proof satisfactory to the Building Official that the public nuisance has been abated for a period of thirty (30) days, then the Building Official may vacate or modify the provisions of the order directing closure.
- A closing directed by the Building Official pursuant to this Chapter shall not constitute an act of possession, ownership or control of the closed inhabitable structure by the City of O’Fallon.
- In the event that an inhabitable structure ordered closed by the Building Official is not closed by the owners or others in control of it, the Building Official shall take all appropriate steps to undertake and complete the work necessary to secure the inhabitable structure and shall charge the owners of the inhabitable structure therefor. In the event that the owners do not promptly reimburse the City for necessary steps taken, the Building Official shall report the charges to the City’s Collector of Revenue and/or Finance Director who shall order the assessment against the property so benefited.
- Additionally, the City Attorney may commence procedures through the appropriate court to recover costs incurred by the City for closure of the inhabitable structure.
I. Use Of A Closed Habitable Structure Prohibited. It shall be unlawful to use or occupy, or to permit the use or occupancy of, any inhabitable structure ordered closed by the Building Official pursuant to this Chapter.
J. Promulgation Of Rules. The City Attorney may promulgate rules and regulations to carry out and give full effect to the provisions of this Section. Section 2. It is hereby declared to be the intention of the City Council that each and every part, section and subsection of this ordinance shall be separate and severable from each and every other part, section and subsection hereof and that the City Council intends to adopt each said part, section, and subsection separately and independently of any other part, section and subsection. In the event that any part of this ordinance shall be determined to be or to have been unlawful or unconstitutional, the remaining parts, sections and subsections shall be and remain in full force and effect.
Section 3. The Chapter, Article, Division and/or Section assignments designated in this Ordinance may be revised and altered in the process of recodifying or servicing the City’s Code of Ordinances upon supplementation of such code if, in the discretion of the editor, an alternative designation would be more reasonable. In adjusting such designations the editor may also change other designations and numerical assignment of code sections to accommodate such changes.
Section 4. This Ordinance shall be in full force and effect from and after its passage and approval by the Mayor.
PASSED BY THE CITY COUNCIL FOR THE CITY OF O’FALLON, MISSOURI, THIS 13TH DAY OF SEPTEMBER, 2012.
Pamela L. Clement, City Clerk
APPROVED THIS 13TH DAY OF SEPTEMBER, 2012.
Bill Hennessy, Mayor
Pamela L. Clement, City Clerk
Approved as to Form:
Kevin M. O’Keefe, City Attorney
For more information contact:
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology
P.O. Box 570
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0570
(573) 751-6102 or