Meth Labs

The number of methamphetamine laboratories found in Colorado communities continues to grow. The availability of low cost ingredients and a simple recipe for the drug has allowed unsophisticated drug "cookers" to open up shop in hotel rooms, vehicles and, more importantly, condominiums, townhouses and single family homes. Due to the flammable nature of the ingredients, meth labs often explode and cause tremendous fires. For those communities unlucky enough to have a meth lab, the fact that it did not explode into a fireball seems like little consolation. Often by the time law enforcement has enough evidence to raid the unit, the damage has been done.

However, that does not mean that an association should sit idly by and allow suspicious activity to continue without question. According to a 2001 City and County of Denver article, the following characteristics may be indicative of a meth lab:

Unusual, strong odors like ether, ammonia, alcohol, toluene
and acetone;

Residences with windows blacked out;

Renters who pay their landlords with cash;

Lots of people coming and going at unusual times, particularly
at night;

Excessive trash including large amounts of items such as
antifreeze containers, lantern fuel cans, batteries, red
stained coffee filters, drain cleaner and duct tape; or

Unusual amounts of clear glass containers being brought into
the home.

The Tri-County Health Department (serving Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties) has an excellent web site which can be located at the following link:http://www.tchd.org/methlab.htm . This site has a link to the Boulder County Department of Health where pictures of meth labs and meth lab garbage can be viewed. If you see any similar characteristics or otherwise suspect that a meth lab may exist in your community, call law enforcement immediately.

Once a meth lab has been discovered, a long and costly testing and cleanup process must begin. The cooking of methamphetamine creates toxic by-products that can soak into drywall, flooring and any other portions of a structure. Exposure to these by-products can cause severe reactions and even death. Consequently, the Colorado legislature adopted House Bill 1182 in 2004, which provides for the cleanup of property contaminated by methamphetamine manufacture. The law can be found at the following link:http://www.tchd.org/pdfs/methlab_bill.pdf . This law gives the owner of the affected property two choices—either clean the property or demolish it. Following that new law, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment established standards governing the cleanup of affected properties. The standards can be found at the following link:http://www.tchd.org/pdfs/methlab_rules.pdf .

For communities of townhouses or condominiums, the problems caused by a meth lab can be quite serious as the common elements can be contaminated. In such a case, the association should contact its attorney to help determine that the safety of nearby residents is reasonably assured. Fortunately, for the responsible owners who cleanup the property in accordance with the law, they may obtain immunity from liability for health-based civil suits based on the existence of the meth lab.

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