The Meth Effect: Part 3
BATON ROUGE- When a meth lab is picked up, that doesn't mean it's cleaned up.
It costs thousands of dollars to rid a home of chemicals used in the process, and involves ripping up carpet, gutting walls and revamping ventilation systems. But there's nothing forcing homeowners to clean it up before dumping the house on someone else.
Neil Ray with Paul Davis Restoration said, "I think that really can lead to one of the problems of people just trying to cover it up and rather than taking care of it because it's not an inexpensive fix at all."
Two laws make it illegal to just cover it up.
The first, passed in 2003, requires sellers to disclose any defects of a home, including crystal meth exposure, to a buyer.
The second kicked in in 2008 and calls on law enforcement to report any addresses where meth labs are found to the state Department of Environmental Quality.
It then puts DEQ in charge of creating minimum standards for re-mediating a meth-contaminated home so addresses can be taken off that publicly posted list.
"We certainly want to make it clear that this is not a warranty of any kind, this document, and it certainly does not take the place of any inspections that the seller should undertake, it's just a baseline tool, an educational tool that the buyer can look at," said Norman Morris, Vice President of the Louisiana Realtors Association.
That's because there's no penalty if a seller doesn't fill-out this form for a buyer to beware. And that list of contaminated properties doesn't exist three years after the bill said it should.
"The problem is, it says when we get a referral we'll put it on the website, and we will, and then law enforcement, they have yet to provide us with that referral," said DEQ Spokesman Rodney Mallett.
DEQ says word may not have gotten to law enforcement about the list because Gustav and Ike took the state off-course of business-as-usual. But those cleaning standards, they're not developed either, because there's no mandatory standard to follow from the feds.
"This is a new problem for us," said Mallett, "We regulate industry, pollution sources, with permits, remediation, soil, ground water, we don't have standards for inside the home."
Ray said, "Right now, the fact that there are no standards doesn't necessarily mean you have to do anything, it should be done, but there's nothing saying that you have to do it."
Even though it's not perfect, most say something on the books is a start.
Morris said, "At the end of the day, we want to make sure that consumers are advised of this issue or any other items that could be unsafe in a home and obviously we want to clean these things up."
DEQ will be meeting with sheriff's across the state this month to get agencies on board with reporting homes to a list posted on its website.
The agency hopes to have cleaning standards in place by the end of the year, so those homes can be taken off the list, when they're made safe.
And the EPA, with State Police, will train Louisiana first responders how to safely handle a meth lab next month.
For information on the free class, visit this website: http://www.lsp.org/training_clan.html