Loopholes In Oklahoma's Meth Law
Tuesday, February 27th 2007, 8:06 pm
By: News On 6
Busting a meth lab solves half of the problem, but creates another. The toxic residues left behind by meth labs can cause medical problems ranging from headaches to possibly even cancer. So who cleans up after a meth lab is found in a house? And how much cleaning has to be done? News On 6 anchor Omar Villafranca did some investigating, he reports the answers can be frightening.
A man we are calling David bought his first house last year.
"We absolutely fell in love with it," David said. "I mean, it was everything we were looking for and more."
One month later his family dream home turned into a three-bedroom nightmare.
"A police officer stopped me in my driveway and tell me for sure that it was a methamphetamine lab," said David. â€œWe were devastated. We were crushed. We really didn't know what to think."
David paid an expert to test his home. His fears were confirmed when four places inside the house tested positive for toxic chemicals.
"We look where there's a heat source. We're going to look at the stove, we would look at the stove hood, we would also look in an air intake area. And because that's a collection place for vaporized chemicals," Billy Coye with Apex BioClean said.
"The air ducts tested positive, so every time the heat comes on, we don't know what kind of stuff it's blowing," said David.
David's house was one of 1,100 meth labs raided by Tulsa Police since 1996. David learned the bank re-possessed his home and sold it in a Sheriff's auction, a realtor then bought it and sold it to David.
By law, realtors have to tell a buyer if the property used to be a meth house, but here's where it gets sticky. The realtor, who didn't want to talk to the News on 6, told David she didn't know the home was a former meth lab. David says a voice message left by the realtor proves she knew something was wrong with the house, and he's taking her to court.
"I feel like I've been severely taken advantage of," said David. "She bought the house to flip, make some money on, and she did it at my expense."
David's case exposes a loophole in Oklahoma meth laws. Right now, cleaning simply means removing the meth and chemicals used in the cooking process. But Oklahoma and the Federal Government don't have standards for cleaning up meth labs.
Tulsa Police Sergeant Harold Adair has raided more than 800 meth labs. He says cleaning up requires more than just a wet rag.
"Sometimes you're going to have to take the wall out. Sometimes you're going to have to take it down to the bare studs and start from scratch," he said.
There's another loophole in the law; the disclosure laws only protect home buyers, not home renters. Sergeant Adair says something must be done to change that.
"That threat is still there, these houses still exist, and contamination still exists, that's still there and it needs to be addressed," Adair said.
The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill to help set up voluntary federal guidelines for meth clean up. Every Oklahoma House member voted for that bill.
If you think you might live in an old meth house you can contact the police or sheriff's office and see if there have been any busts at your residence. Or you can have your place tested.