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Monday, December 16, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - "Meth labs take a huge toll on Indiana communities"

Maureen Hayden, CNHI, reported yesterday in the Goshen News:

INDIANAPOLIS — State Rep. Wendy McNamara knew methamphetamine was a scourge on her district in southwestern Indiana, but the damaging effects of the drug really hit her when she met a real estate appraiser who’d suffered lung damage after visiting a meth-contaminated house.

The appraiser had no idea the house was once the site of a clandestine drug lab. Gone were the containers of chemicals used to cook the meth, but left behind were the toxic contaminants that permeated the carpets, walls, drains and ventilation.

That appraiser now carries protective breathing gear when he’s on the job, but McNamara thinks he and others need more protection.

The Posey County Republican plans to introduce legislation to increase public disclosure requirements for properties contaminated by meth labs and to give local officials more authority to force quicker cleanup of those properties.

“We have to find a way to protect us from people who use meth and who don’t care about anybody else,” McNamara said.

Meth labs are a big problem throughout Indiana. The state came in a close third in the nation in 2012 for the number of meth lab busts, at nearly 1,700. State police say the state is on pace for nearly 1,900 meth lab busts this year.

The state doesn’t track how many of those labs are located in homes, but police say that’s where many are located. That’s because the vast majority of homemade meth is now concocted by mixing pseudoephedrine and other ingredients in a soda bottle — the so-called “one-pot” method — which makes it simple to manufacture on a kitchen counter or bathroom sink, police say.

McNamara is among a bipartisan group of legislators who want pseudoephedrine returned to its earlier status as a prescription drug. They face strong opposition from pharmaceutical companies and retailers, and their measure has gained little traction.

So now lawmakers are using what they call “reactive legislation” to address problems created by meth.

“We think of meth as a health issue, but it’s also an economic issues in our local communities,” said McNamara. “Think of the local resources that go into fighting meth and its consequences.”

Police are supposed to notify local health officials when a meth lab is found in a home. The health department is then supposed to post a notice ordering the house be evacuated and remain vacant until the dwelling is decontaminated by a state certified cleanup crew.

But the cost of decontamination can run into the thousands of dollars, leading property owners to delay or simply abandon the cleanup.

While the law forbids property owners from selling the house or letting anyone move back in until the health department declares the dwelling habitable, violating the law is a misdemeanor and rarely enforced.

And owners of properties where meth labs have been found are not required to disclose that when they sell or transfer the home.

“We just don’t know the number of homes out there that are contaminated,” said Scott Frosch, safety director for the state Department of Environmental Management. “People don’t really know what they’re buying or occupying.”

There is much more in the story.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 16, 2013 09:01 AM
Posted to Indiana Government