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
- motel rooms
- storage sheds
- 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:
- 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.