Arizona Attorney General

Mark Brnovich

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Environmental Impact of Meth

Image of Meth debris. Click image to enlarge.Meth manufacturing is an environmental nightmare. Environmental concerns are associated both with the meth cooking process and the storage of the many chemicals used to make meth. For every pound of meth that is made, five to six pounds of waste are generated. Those who make meth often dispose of waste by flushing it down toilets, putting it into the trash, dumping it on the ground, pouring it into waterways and leaving it in hotels or public storage facilities.

Waste materials from the drug making process, as well as contaminated glass and equipment, can be explosive, flammable, toxic and, in some concentrations, lethal. Without proper disposal and cleanup, toxic waste from the meth manufacturing process can remain present and active for years. Unsuspecting victims who live in dwellings formerly used as drug labs are among those at greatest risk of long-term exposure because the vapors involved in manufacturing meth are absorbed by wall and floor surfaces, and the chemical ingredients may remain on floors and countertops long after a drug lab has been dismantled. These leftover chemicals cannot be removed by normal cleaning.

Detailed information on exposure to a meth lab environment may be found within Chemical Exposures Associated with Clandestine Methamphetamine Laboratories.

After the investigation of a meth lab is complete, the gross contamination, including chemicals and lab waste, is removed from the site. In the five years ending December 31, 2004, law enforcement agencies have conducted over 1,300 meth lab and meth lab related seizures. The removal of gross contamination associated with those seizures has cost over $3.9 million. Some of the cost of gross contamination removal is recovered through restitution, but often the cost is passed on to the taxpayer.

As of July 1, 2003, those who sell property are required by Arizona law to inform prospective buyers if a property has been used to manufacture methamphetamine, ecstasy or LSD. They are also required to hire a drug laboratory site remediation firm that is registered with the State Board of Technical Registration, pursuant to A.R.S. § 32-122.03, to remediate the property of residual contamination. Until the site is properly cleaned, it is unlawful for any person other than the owner, landlord or manager to enter the property (see A.R.S. § 12-1000). Clean-up requirements and an approved list of drug remediation firms can be found at the Arizona State Board of Technical Registration. The owner is liable for the costs incurred to remediate the property of residual contamination, even if the owner had no knowledge of the criminal activity at the property. The cost of hiring a drug lab site remediation firm will vary depending on the extent of damage to a property, the length of time drugs were being manufactured, the types of chemicals used in the cooking process, and other property factors such as asbestos, lead paint, water damage or mold.

In areas of high contamination, generally all porous materials such as carpet, bedding, upholstered furniture and related items will be removed and disposed. All stained materials from the laboratory operations, including sheet rock, wood furniture, wood flooring and tile flooring, will be removed and disposed. In areas not highly suggestive of contamination, all materials will be cleaned to meet the post remediation testing requirements. Owners can expect the costs of remediation for minimal damage to range from $500 to $5,000. More extensive damage can cost well over $10,000.