If you are about to tackle the enormous job of cleaning up a clandestine or illegal drug lab, you have to know what regulations or guidelines your state has set. Even if you’re not tackling the job yourself, understanding the remediation guidelines are important. There are no federal regulations for illegal drug lab clean-up or disclosure, each state has its own set of guidelines. -The most important first step is making yourself aware of how a clandestine drug lab is cleaned-up.
State regulations differ in a few unique ways. It is important to know what your state’s guidelines are: if they have them; what one’s obligations are as a seller; and what one’s rights are as a buyer. If a state has remediation guidelines they could differ in a few ways:
- Does the presence of a former meth or drug lab need to be disclosed to a property buyer/owner? (Disclosure/non-disclosure laws)
- What is the safe amount of drug residue allowed to remain following a drug clean-up?
- Both disclosure and residue guidelines.
- No regulation/guidelines for drug lab clean-up
Though many states that set clandestine drug lab remediation guidelines have both disclosure and safe level standards, some do not. Tennessee for instance, only requires that the level of methamphetamine residue remaining in the property be at or below 0.1 micrograms per 100 square centimeters to be considered safe to inhabit. Tennessee also has guidelines for the amount of chemical traces of lead, mercury, or volatile organic chemicals that are safe to remain after a cleanup. In states, such as Tennessee, the seller of a property does not have to disclose the former presence of a clandestine drug lab, although they must make sure the amount of residue is at or below the safe level set by the state. As a buyer research is imperative when buying a property in Tennessee. Asking neighbors and contacting local law enforcement are a good start to finding out the property’s history and protecting yourself.
A good example of states with both disclosure and residual level limits is Colorado. The State of Colorado has both disclosure guidelines and remediation regulations. If you are purchasing a residential real property in the state of Colorado the buyer, “has the right to test the property for the purpose of determining whether the property has ever been used as a methamphetamine laboratory” (38-35.7-103. (1)) If the buyer chooses to test the property, Colorado also regulates the amount of safe residual traces left after drug lab remediation. This sets the guide for what is an acceptable amount of drug trace is after cleanup that makes the property safely inhabitable. In the state of Colorado, it is .5 micrograms per 100 square centimeters of residue. Compare that to California, which allows 1.5 micrograms per 100 square centimeters. Those standards are considered “health based standards”. Colorado’s safe limit is much lower than California’s but compared to Tennessee’s limit of 0.1 Colorado’s is higher. If the seller fails to disclose in writing the knowledge of a previous illegal drug lab on the property in question, the onus for property remediation falls on the seller, not the buyer. The buyer also has the right to pursue legal action against the seller for remediation costs, health-related injury costs, as well as attorney’s fees. Since Colorado has both disclosure and remediation guidelines it offers a safer environment for the property buyer
Since less than half of the states in the US have disclosure/nondisclosure laws it is important to do research as a buyer. In a state that does not have disclosure laws, you could be purchasing a property without knowing whether a drug lab was once present (meth or otherwise). In states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, and Maine there are no remediation guidelines. For states such as these, where there are no regulations regarding the disclosure or safe levels of traces of a previous drug lab the buyer must research before purchasing the property to ensure the property is safe to inhabit. In these states, should the property be purchased, any remediation costs fall on the buyer, not the seller. Many states have registries where one is able to search a property’s address to see if there was ever a drug lab reported on that property. However, this the drug lab must have been reported in order for it to be recorded. Another option would be to have the property tested or use a self-test using a kit one can purchase online. If you self-test, you can visit the EPA’s website at epa.gov in order to find a list of “Voluntary Guidelines for Methamphetamine Laboratory Cleanup” which can assist you in decontaminating a property.
Do you believe you have purchased a property that had a drug lab in it? Do you believe you may have been lied to about it? Or are you looking to tackle a clean-up job yourself? Always remember that no amount of an illegal drug is safe and it is important to protect yourself from hazardous waste material found in these labs. Check out Spaulding Decon’s interactive map at spauldingdecon.com /drug-lab-cleanup-laws-by-state/ to check out what your state guidelines for remediation are!