KATC Investigates

Nov 9, 2013 12:00 AM by Steven Albritton & Tina Macias

"Homes With A Secret Past" Part 2 -- Confusion In Law Putting People In Danger

Some Acadiana homeowners aren't being told about their new home's history with meth labs, even though state law requires it to be done. Unfortunately, there are no penalties for those who fail to do so. In 2008, another law was passed requiring that meth houses be reported to the state and put on a public list. We found out confusion in the law has left many of these homes off the list.

If you check the Department of Environmental Quality's (DEQ) website for contaminated homes, even after nearly 60 busts in Acadiana in five years and more than 20 in Lafayette Parish, none are listed. Lafayette Metro Narcotics says since the labs they deal with are small, they are immediately cleaned.

"Outside that container are all the household containers that are used, but everything else is contained pretty much in the bottle. That is neutralized and removed from the scene. Everything else is removed from the scene so it's deemed no contamination at that point," Captain John Babin Lafayette Metro Narcotics said.

DEQ disagrees. They say any site ruled a meth lab by law enforcement must be reported no matter the size. When we spoke with officials again they changed their tune saying they are working to become more compliant with the law

"What we're working on right now is, from my understanding, is perhaps trying to notify them either immediately or immediately there after the scene so that they're notified. But, of course, you need to understand that there is a criminal investigation that's going on too. So, we kind of have to use our judgment on when to do it although we know we have to do it," Lafayette Fire Department and Haz-Mat PIO Alton Trahan said.

DEQ says removing chemicals is one thing, but it takes an extra step from homeowners for it to come off the list. From the rare super lab all the way to the one pot labs, all of them produce poisonous gas. The location where it's found needs to be remediated, which can only be done by specialized cleaning teams in Haz-Mat suits.

"What happens is people think the police "cleaned" the place so now it's safe. It's not clean. It's cleaned up of the active precursors and the active meth pots. It's not safe for someone to go in there. It's not safe for someone to live in there, "Larry Douglas of Xtreme Cleaners said.

According to Douglas, removing the materials isn't enough to decontaminate the site. Meth exposure can lead to respiratory problems and possibly skin rashes. No matter the size of the lab it's a three to four day process to make the home totally safe again.

When asked if he believes there quite a few people living in homes that haven't been remediated, Douglas confidently said he believes there are.

"I mean I know there are. If we've done 15 meth labs in the last 9 to 10 days, and we've been called on 1 to even go out and test it, people aren't remediating the homes. I think there is a lack of understanding of what the laws are and a lack of understanding that affects can have on a family, children," Douglas said.

For a list of all the reported meth labs in the state you can go to the DEQ website and for a list on how to properly remediate a home click here.

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