Meth lab mess: Risks and hazards facing those in charge of cleaning up

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 24, 2014) — The State of Indiana continues to battle a very serious meth problem. In 2013, more than 1,800 meth labs were busted across the state. That’s compared to 1,700 in 2012. In 1995, there were only six meth lab busts.

These meth labs are dangerous, the chemicals used can be explosive and deadly.

Meth has even become the story line for hit television shows like AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” And while Hollywood is cashing in, a real life meth lab is anything but glamorous. In fact, the conditions are horrible.

FOX59 was given an exclusive tour of a lab in central Indiana. The conditions were disgusting, and our lives were in danger because we didn’t know what to expect, or what we’d step on.

“You can actually get needles on yourself, you know, get poked,” said Rick Held, operations manager for Crisis Cleaning. We’ll tell you more about his company a little later.

He says in meth labs, you have to be aware that something could explode at any second.

“You go in, you turn the light on, they got water in the light bulb and it explodes. you got needles,” Held said. “You saw bullets here.”

The only way we could be in the home was to be dressed in hazmat suits with paper masks, and even gas masks! We literally entered at our own risk. The setting for our tour was a home just outside Crawfordsville. The outside wasn’t the important part, it was the inside where the meth was cooked as the family was living. The family included young children.

“They’re so young, they have a weak immune system actually so by them crawling around, licking their fingers, and touching the walls and the floor, there’s still meth there,” Held said.

This particular meth lab was shut down, and the drugs were cleared out, but it needed to be cleaned and brought back to livable condition. That’s where Held’s company comes in. He and meth cleanup technician James Plessinger began the tough job of cleaning the house up.

“There’s a couple days to take out all the contents, and then the actual decontamination part will take two or three days. You know, we can walk in to a house and have it cleaned with in a week,” said Plessinger.

“We throw the contents out, because the meth is on the contents. We actually come in and we HEPA vac the walls, and after we HEPA vac it, we actually go in and we fog it,” said Held.

With the crew watching over me, I had a chance to try that fogging machine that sprays out a chemical meant to break down the meth. It can only be used while wearing a gas mask because that’s how strong the chemical is. Once that’s done, surfaces are tested at four different points to see if residue levels are at safe, state mandated levels. The samples are rushed to a lab, and if they’re returned at safe levels, the home is essentially considered liveable. The cost to clean the average three bedroom house is about $5,000. Crisis Cleaning has been doing this kind of work for about 12 years.

“We were at the sheriff shows, and they said there’s a need for meth cleaning, and we jumped on it and that’s what we did,” Held said.

And like the old saying, it’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

“We do meth, death, mold. We do a lot of dirty jobs,” said Held.

What if you’re looking to buy a home in Indiana? You’re covered because state law requires sellers to make it known that the home you’re buying was a meth lab.