The Washington Times-Herald

State News

December 14, 2013

Legislator pushes for public disclosure of former meth homes

(Continued)

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 Froush, safety director for the state Department of Environmental Management. “People don’t really know what they’re buying or occupying.”

Another problem: Laws covering the cleanup and monitoring of meth-polluted homes came with no extra dollars for enforcement.

“It’s an unfunded mandate from the state,” said Mindy Waldron, administrator of the Fort Wayne Allen County Department of Health. “And there are really no penalties if no one cleans up a house. It can just sit there and be a blight on the community.”

Waldron said county health departments don’t have the power to condemn a house and have little power enforcing the evacuation notices they’re charged with posting.

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