12 Steps To Meth Lab Cleanup With The Best Crime Scene Cleaners
Let’s Discuss Meth
The Methamphetamine Lab Incidents list from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports that in 2012 there was a total of 11,210 clandestine lab incidents. That is down from the 13,390 incidents that occurred in 2011. The state of Missouri had the most incidents with 1,825. Next was Tennessee with 1,585 and then Indiana with 1,429. New York had 147, California had 79 and Texas had 32 busts.
There are some methamphetamine laboratories that go up in flame literally as explosions and fires are signs that chemistry has gone bad. However, a majority of them are not detected by the police. Law enforcement actually only busts a small fraction of all clandestine labs. So what happens with the labs that go undetected and what procedures are available for identifying contamination and getting the structures cleaned up so that they can be reoccupied safely?
Identifying the danger is the first step that needs to be taken. The following are some the things that you need to look out for when you enter a suspect structure:
- The DEA
- Empty Chemical Containers
- Unkempt Property
- Pungent Odors
- Police Activity
Be Aware of the Dangers of Meth Lab Cleanup
Before crime scene cleaners can be sent in and the cleanup process started, it is very important to be aware of the dangers of potential worker exposure. It is important to realize that meth labs are extremely toxic chemical minefields. Explosions and fire pose immediate risks from the volatile compounds that are used in the production process. If a meth lab is entered prior to being properly assessed by law enforcement officials or prior to proper testing as well as cleaning being done can result in symptoms that range from chemical burns to dizziness, nausea, coughing or even death. Meth lab chemical exposure can occur via ingestion, direct skin contact, absorption or inhalation.
In addition to the chemical dangers that are involved with meth labs, another potential danger is booby traps which may be set in order to protect inventory. There are reports from emergency responders finding explosive devices with broken glass, hidden trip wires that are connected with tear gas grenades, and light bulbs filled with gasoline that ignite when a switch is flipped on. Anytime you are working in a lab you need to take extreme caution.
Meth Lab Cleanup: The 12 Step Process
Step 1. Get the Property Secured:
If you encounter a suspect structure, do not go inside the building. Contact law enforcement and wait for hazard and toxic chemicals and drug paraphernalia to be removed by first responder hazmat teams. After that has been completed, the remediation and testing process can start. Personnel entering a former meth lab need to have had health and safety training. The proper personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn such as heavy gloves, eyeglasses, steel toe boots, foot coverings and a disposable suit or long-sleeved coveralls.
Step 2. Ventilate:
Get the meth lab aired out by opening windows and doors to let in fresh, outdoor air and using a negative air unit that has HEPA filtration and/or blowers, before, during and following the remediation process. Shut down the HVAC system completely while the remediation process is taking place in order to avoid re-contamination from occurring.
Step 3. The scope of Work, Assess and Test.
Why should pre-remediation sampling be done? This help to reduce costs through making the cleanup process more streamlined and identifying the materials that cannot be cleaned due to being too contaminated. Pre-remediation sampling also can help to identify areas that are uncontaminated. The sampling should be performed by an industrial hygienist who has the proper certifications. Any rooms that are serviced by the HVAC system should be under consideration for resting. There are many reasons why it is important to conduct pre-remediation tests. This can help to ensure worker safety and PPE levels. The tests help to establish whether contamination levels exceed local and state requirements and if it is necessary to conduct remediation. Sampling also can show the contamination’s reach and provide the scope of work needed so that cost estimates can be developed by remediation contractors. It can highlight other relevant hazardous materials to the reconstruction process as well.
Step 4. Get a Cleanup Plan Developed:
Take scope of work that the environmental consultant provides and formulate a cleanup plan. This plan should detail PPE levels for crime scene cleaners, the status of the site utilities, any security concerns, and a shoring plan if there are any issues with structural integrity. Outline your cleanup methods which include cleaning vs. removal, any encapsulations, and on-site procedures, as well as a waste disposal plan and off-site contamination.
Step 5. Remove Contaminated Materials.
It is suggested by the EPA that after gross removal there should be ventilation for 24 hours and all meth paraphernalia should be removed. That is when the determination should be made to discard or clean the contents.
Step 6. Vaccum:
Remove the carpet and then use a commercial-grade vacuum that has a HEPA filter to vacuum the floors. It is not recommended that you use a non-commercial grade or standard canister vacuum. Also, vacuum the walls before washing to remove cobwebs and dirt. That removes particulate contamination but doesn’t entirely remove all contamination.
Step 7. Preliminary Wash Hard Surface.
Once items are removed and vacuum, use a detergent-water solution to wash hard surfaces and walls. That helps to prevent re-contamination throughout the remediation process. You should not use bleach as part of your cleaning process since the reaction between the chemical used to produce meth and the bleach may end up creating a toxic gas. Test the wash water to see if it can be disposed onsite or qualifies as a hazardous waste.
Step 8. Clean and Seal the HVAC System:
Immediately shut the HVAC system down and leave it off throughout the remediation process. Take samples of all rooms and areas that are serviced by the HVAC system in order to determine how much the contamination has spread. Test the ducts to determine the contamination’s scope. The ventilation contractors should determine the cleaning methods, however, experts do agree that there should be no chemicals added in order to disinfect the ducts.
Step 9. Throughout Washing:
Use an all0purose cleaner and follow the concentration guidelines of the manufacturer and begin with the walls and ceilings and finish with the floors. Other hard-surfaced items should also be cleaned such as furniture and counters. Clean the whole surface using either cold and hot water and then thoroughly rinse using a clean cloth and clean water after each wash. It is not recommended that harsh chemicals are used since many precursor chemicals utilized in meth production may result in an adverse chemical reaction. For example, bleach can be very toxic.
Step 10. Consider Encapsulating Ceilings and Walls:
Sealing contaminated surfaces and walls with paint and primer does offer a protective barrier. However, proper cleaning techniques should be done in conjunction. It is recommended by several states that products being applied in order to encapsulate surfaces should not be hand-rolled but sprayed instead.
Step 11. Flush Septic and Plumbing Systems:
Metho chemicals ofter are flushed down toilets and poured down sink drains. This can result in plumbing systems being compromised from corrosion or it can potentially become flammable. Use lots of water to flush out plumbing traps throughout the cleaning process and after remediation as well if the wash water is being disposed of at the site. Toilets, bathtubs, and sinks that have visible etching and discoloration should be disposed of. Having large quantities of chemical waste may be problematic if left in private wastewater systems or septic systems. If there is contamination evidence, the tank should be sampled by an industrial hygienist for volatile organic compounds and/or irregular pH levels. Expert field screen for evaluating septic system contamination should be used. Finally, septic system remediation should be done.
Step 12. Clearance Testing:
It is critical to show that contamination has been effectively reduced by the cleanup. Find out what the re-occupancy clearance levels are by checking with local governments. If the state standard is not met by the cleaning, the site needs to be re-cleaned or removal or encapsulation should be done.
Removing Contaminated Materials
The following should be considered:
- Human contact potential: Extra care should be taken with children’s items: Children are much more vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals due to having to develop nervous systems, higher metabolic systems, and frequent hand to mouth contact.
- Emotional or intrinsic value of irreplaceable photos and items.
- Porosity: It is a lot more difficult to clean porous times and they are frequently thrown away.
Non-hazardous or hazardous waste disposal? The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) states that meth lab waste must not go into landfills.