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Illegal drug labs

Learn about methamphetamine labs, their cleanup, and how to report an illegal drug lab.


Illegal meth lab activity should be reported by dialing 9-1-1.

Ask about the decontamination status of a known illegal drug lab in King County

Please include: the property address, your email address, and/or your phone number. Our staff will respond to you directly.

Facts about methamphetamine labs

Methamphetamine, also known as "ice," "speed", or "crank," is a potent central nervous system stimulant. The drug is made illegally in makeshift labs. The labs are set up in places like:

  • rental homes
  • apartments
  • motel rooms
  • garages
  • storage sheds
  • cars
  • campgrounds
  • various outbuildings

All of the processes that produce methamphetamine use a variety of chemicals such as explosives, solvents, metals, salts, and corrosives.

During the drug creation process several compounds and by-products are made. Exposure to these chemicals can have many different health effects on producers and others that are accidentally exposed. Typically, after a lab is found by law enforcement officials, the bulk of lab-related materials including chemicals and containers are removed.

However, small amounts of contaminants can remain on areas such as:

  • floors
  • walls
  • counters
  • carpets
  • furniture
  • sinks
  • drains
  • ventilation systems

Exposure to even small amounts of some of these chemicals can pose serious health risks.

Every pound of methamphetamine produced generates 5 or more pounds of hazardous waste. Much of this waste is dumped down drains and toilets or on the ground, creating many more contaminated sites. This kind of dumping has created septic tanks full of dangerous waste and chemically-contaminated drain fields, soils, and surface waters.

How to clean up a drug lab location

For suspected new drug lab sites or ongoing activity

Contact law enforcement.

For inactive legacy sites

The property owner hires a Washington State Certified Decontamination Contractor to:

  • Assess the property for possible contamination.
  • Prepare and submit a cleanup plan to Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC) for review and approval.
  • Perform the cleanup according to the approved plan.
  • Prepare a final report.

View an updated list of properties identified for decontamination (167 KB)

View a list of certified contractors currently licensed in Washington state to do decontamination work.

The Clean-Up Work Plan

If the Clean-Up Work Plan is sufficient, PHSKC sends the contractor an acceptance letter to:

  • Oversee decontamination
  • Following completion of clean-up activities, the contractor submits final report to PHSKC for review.

If the Clean-Up Work Plan is insufficient, you must send a Revision Request Letter to the contractor.

The Final Report

If the Final Report is approved, a Release of Decontamination Order is sent to the property owner and recorded at King County Division of Records and Elections.

If the Final Report is not approved, PHSKC sends a Revision Request Letter to the contractor.

In addition, sites involved in illegal drug lab activity often have other problems that need to be addressed.

  • The local building department may be involved because of issues such as abandoned vehicles and structural deficiencies.
  • If chemicals from the lab were disposed of on the property or there was other activity that may have contaminated the soil or groundwater, Washington State Department of Ecology may also be involved.
  • The various agencies work together to address problems at these sites.

View tips for landlords, property owners, motel managers, and owners to help prevent illegal drug labs on your property

Public Health - Seattle & King County's role with illegal drug labs

State funding for Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) to investigate alleged drug labs ended in 2010. Before funding ended, PHSKC investigated numerous properties contaminated from illegal drug manufacturing.  The overwhelming majority of these known (or "legacy") drug lab properties have been lawfully decontaminated by certified decontamination contractors and released for re-use.

Due to the funding change, PHSKC no longer investigates alleged labs reported to us by county residents.  However, PHSKC still performs the following tasks for the few remaining legacy drug lab properties that were found to be contaminated before program funding ended in 2010 and have not been decontaminated:

  • Informs the public of hazards.
  • Requires owners seeking to have their properties decontaminated to obtain the services of a State of Washington certified drug lab decontamination contractor to evaluate and decontaminate the property.
  • Requires the decontamination contractor to obtain pre- and post-decontamination laboratory analysis of areas or portions of the contaminated property.
  • Reviews and approves the decontamination contractor's decontamination workplan.
  • Reviews and approves the decontamination contractor's post-decontamination report if analytical results show the property has been decontaminated.
  • Files a release in the King County real property records authorizing re-use of the property.

Under state law, properties that have been investigated and found to be contaminated must be decontaminated by a state-certified drug lab decontamination contractor following state of Washington decontamination standards. After the decontamination work has been completed and the standards met, PHSKC files a Release with the King County Recorder's Office and the property can be reoccupied.

Access records about illegal drug labs

King County records, including information on Notice and Orders and Releases, can be accessed online.

Access records

  1. To access documents on the linked site, click on the 'parcel id' icon.
  2. In the blank field after "Starts With", enter in the property's parcel number (no hyphens nor spaces).
  3. In the Document Type field, press the Select button and check the boxes for Notice and Release and any other documents you may be interested in.
  4. Leave all other options as is and press the blue Submit button. The system will search for any documents based on your selections and will display them on the page if they exist for the property.