Law targets meth cleanup, preventing lawsuits |

Law targets meth cleanup, preventing lawsuits

Cleanup of methamphetamine labs in the past has included landowners doing nothing and demolition.

But regulations set to go into effect March 30 will hold landlords and property owners to higher stan-dards for cleaning up meth labs.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, property owners who clean up a property under the new standards will be immune from civil lawsuits from future owners, occupants or neighbors for alleged health-related complaints from the lab.

The new policy shows that awareness of the drug’s toxicity is increasing, said Lt. John Forgay of the Craig Police Department.

“From the standpoint of awareness it will be important for landlords and real estate people to know what their tenants are doing,” he said. “It’s a powerful stand in making sure the labs get cleaned up and are less of a hazard to the public.”

To receive immunity from lawsuits, property owners must prove that clean-up standards are met according to a “Certified Industrial Hygienist” or someone who is certified by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. A report from the cleanup must be forwarded to the state. Or, property owners can demolish a property if they want to decontaminate a known meth lab.

Property Manager Mel Day of Columbine Apartments in Craig agreed that there should be a standard for cleaning up meth labs. Although Day said there’s never been evidence of a meth lab at his apartment complex, he thought that tenants who are responsible for cooking meth should have to pay the fines for the cleanup.

“Certainly the landlord has to do something if they suspect a meth lab, but there should be a law that the resident pays for all expenses as compensation,” he said. The good news, Craig police said, is they haven’t busted any meth labs in Craig in 2004. But that doesn’t mean they don’t think that labs exist.

People may be taking fewer risks by getting the drug through other means, said Sgt. Bill Leonard of the Craig Police Department.

“The products for making meth are becoming harder to get,” he said. “Most people don’t want to take the risks to make it.”

All stages of cooking meth involve flammable and highly toxic substances. Those chemicals can seep into carpets, walls, drapes and other household items. Cooking meth in a confined space can cause sickness to current and future tenants and homeowners.

In 2004, Grand Routt and Moffat County Narcotics Enforce-ment Agency seized 83 grams of meth and netted 19 meth-related arrests.

But those numbers could be a lot higher, Police Chief Walt Vanatta said.

“We’ve still got a lot of (meth labs),” he said. “We just need people to report them before it’s too late.”

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or

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