icon Clandestine Meth Lab Cleaning & Decontamination

Within Australia the illegal manufacture of the drug Methamphetamine in Clandestine Drug Labs, known as Meth Labs, has been rapidly increasing every year, whereby in New South Wales & Queensland alone, police seize & investigate several hundred Meth Labs every year.  Properties used to manufacture can become contaminated by a one off process or ongoing efforts by criminals who blend into the community using their home, rental, factory, or motel room to manufacture drugs.

Overall, the illegal meth lab contaminates the property by the process or ‘cooking’ using a variety of toxic chemicals to produce the drug.   Hazardous chemical waste by-products & methamphetamine vapors contaminate the internal building structure & surfaces, creating a potential for exposure to chemical residues that may affect the unsuspecting victim by merely being in the property even after the drug manufacturing process has long gone.

The property owner is ultimately responsible to ensure a premises is safe for habitation, after the discovery of a meth lab, under Australian Laws (EPA & Local Govt). Inclusive of contracting  professionals to undertake an initial site assessment, perform effective cleaning of ALL hazardous material (meth residue, toxic waste, & other environment hazards), & post validation to ensure residues & chemicals have been removed, the legal onus of responsibility not only restricts future property management or sale, but can burden owners with penalties for none compliance with orders.

“Meth labs, past & present are dangerous & hazardous – call our team to protect your legal rights & restore your property safely.”

For a confidential discussion phone our specialist meth lab cleanup team today on 1800 925 925.

Understanding the risk with meth lab cleaning :

Health & Welfare Issues

The effects on an individual’s health can be immediate or long term, but often involve respiratory complications, severe headaches & nausea, allergic reactions or chemical poisoning, unexplained rashes & burns, miscarriage or birth defects, cancer & psychological disorders to name a few, where children are especially susceptible to the effects of this crime.

Meth labs are considered hazardous waste sites and should only be entered by trained & properly equipped professionals.

Often victims are unaware of the lab’s existence either inspecting the property or moving in, though some people still enter out of curiosity or necessity when suspecting the presence of an active lab or recently vacated property – a dangerous attitude & totally unnecessary. Protect yourself, call the police!

Standard Safety Awareness

  • DO NOT ENTER – A suspected meth lab site if you believe it has been used for cooking meth. Call the police immediately.
  • DO NOT TOUCH – Never touch apparatus or unknown chemicals that are left behind – dried chemical powders are still toxic & cause serious injuries.
  • AVOID SKIN CONTACT – Skin contact can cause burns or chemical absorption into the body.
  • DO NOT HANDLE – Handling items can cause some chemicals to combine & react, ignite or explode on contact with water or air.
  • DO NOT SMOKE – chemical fumes are highly volatile, presenting extreme dangers from fire & explosions
  • DO NOT BREATH VAPOURS – any sign of vapors on a suspected or active lab poses an extreme risk of inhalation that can cause death in a short period of time – offenders are often found in labs overcome by toxic gases stored in containers & gas bottles.

Seek medical attention as a matter of urgency if affected.

Identifying Contaminated Properties

Often many meth labs go undetected & remain in the community, where unsuspecting owners or renters can be exposed to the toxic effects of meth & other hazardous chemical residues. During 2015, in excess of 260 clandestine labs were located in Queensland, with 51 properties being attributed to Public Housing.

Australian police investigations & subsequent meth lab identification is primarily the result of accidents, such as fires, explosions, crime incidents & deaths within a lab and the remainder being found by unsuspecting owners & property managers.

There are obvious signs that may assist owners & agents, including property damage, acid burns to benches & drains, staining to walls & floors, strong odours (solvents, ammonia, cat urine or vinegar-like & pungent) to name a few. A typical meth lab includes a collection of chemicals in bottles or drums, glassware, hoses, pressurized cylinders & portable heating equipment.

Pre-cursor chemicals such as ephedrine & pseudoephedrine contained in decongestants & stimulant medications are the most common chemicals (& packaging) found on sites to start the meth making process.

Other common chemicals & equipment at meth labs include :
• Red Phosphorus
• Iodine
• Starter Fluid (Ethyl ether)
• Acetone, toluene, alcohol or paint thiner
• Stove fluid (Naphtha)
• Anhydrous Ammonia (in LPG or pressurised tanks – causes heavy corrosion on valves)
• Drain cleaner (sodium hydroxide)
• Lithium batteries
• Sulphuric acid, muriatic acid, phosphoric acid
• Hydrogen peroxide
• Coffee Filters (with red stains or ephedrine residue)

Testing for hazardous levels of meth & other toxic chemicals involves either ‘presumptive’ field testing (positive/negative results only) or primarily swabbing for laboratory analysis, to determine indicative levels of residue present. Testing can be completed by a qualified restorer or an Industrial Hygienist, whereby the later being able to determine other environmental hazards present.

Meth Lab Cleanup Issues

Typically, prior to cleanup, authorities examine, record & remove lab-related chemicals, apparatus, & associated equipment suspected of being used in the process before reporting the incident & investigating. Removing equipment alone does not make it safe !

Dependant on the cooking process, length of operation, storage & disposal of by-product waste, and identified levels of methamphetamine above acceptable levels (0.5μg/100cm2) the risk of exposure at a former meth lab can be significant until a meth lab cleanup is completed. Only a competent, trained & experienced technician can recognize the varied restoration issues & adapt procedures, methodology & response to a meth lab cleanup.

After the removal of illicit lab equipment & chemicals, residual amounts of meth, other chemicals & byproducts may persist indefinitely on interior surfaces & furnishings, being absorbed into structures, walls, & fixtures that will require a significant decontamination process, removal of affected contents & waste, and in some cases removal of affected building materials not suitable for restoration & remedial building works.

Potential areas of contamination can be divided into primary & secondary areas, with varied approaches to decontamination or as detailed within Remediation Action Plans (RAP)

Typical primary areas –

• Processing or ‘cooking’ areas – Significant contamination in these areas may be caused by spillage of chemicals, boil-overs, explosions, fumes & gases created during the heating & distilling processes. Internal areas affected may include floors, walls, ceilings, equipment, benches, cupboards, plumbing fixtures & drains (including septic tanks), air conditioning & HVAC systems.
• Disposal Areas – Internal sinks & drains, toilets, bathtubs & showers, floor drains, vents & extractors. Outdoor areas include, soil, groundwater, sewer & storm water drains, council waste or dumped on side of roadways & bush land.
• Storage Areas – Contamination may be caused during transfer of chemicals, leaks, spillage, chemical reactions & open container vapours.

Secondary areas of contamination include –

• Migration of fumes or during chemical movement, such as hallways or high traffic areas.
• Common areas in multiple dwelling structures or adjacent apartments & rooms can become contaminated.
• Shared ventilation, plumbing & HVAC systems can contaminate other areas of the home, hotel rooms, & business premises.

Why Contract a Professional Restorer ?

Dealing with hazardous levels of dangerous drug residues should not be left to untrained or inexperienced providers. Attempting to clean a property with limited understanding of restoration principles, an awareness of chemical hazards or improper cleaning techniques for a structure may prove to be a very dangerous & a costly exercise for owners & future occupiers.

Our meth lab cleaning team are professionals & dedicated, committed to providing an efficient, practical & cost effective decontamination process that is managed consistent with Australian guidelines & RAP requirements. As a family owned & operated business, our clients can rest assured that our team can manage all facets of restoration.

Furthermore, a professional restorer provides –
• Certified & experienced, meth lab decontamination technicians with qualifications (IICRC) in restoration services.
• Initial site assessment & testing services – Quality controlled sampling for laboratory analysis by a NATA (Australia) & IANZ (New Zealand) accredited laboratory or presumptive test.
• Remediation Action Plan (RAP) input or compliance to assist Industrial Hygienist & authorised officers develop effective strategies for cleanup, in line with restoration industry standards.
• Safe work practices- Work, health & safety standards for HAZMAT situations (containment, waste collection, & safe restoration procedures for chemical biohazards)
• Environmental Protection – Bio-degradable cleaning treatments & controlled industrial wash down methods to contain & collect waste, lawfully disposing of all contaminates
• Overall, providing a total restoration solution – from site preparation, management of external providers, hazardous waste & contents removal, property wash down & chemical decontamination, to site clearance & reporting.

Our manager has over 20 years policing experience dealing with this type of crime, having investigated Drug Manufacturing since 2005. Combined with certification & qualifications of Meth Lab Cleaning, Decontamination & Testing you can now rely on our ability to Assess, Manage & Remediate any site of contamination from Meth Labs, Cannabis Houses & other Biohazard situations.

Typical Meth Labs

Meth labs of this nature are common place in most ‘domestic’ attempts to manufacture methamphetamine. Very crude systems using the basic laboratory apparatus to separate & synthesise the chemicals or precursors. This site was in a shed with open doors allowing ventilation though open flames near volatile chemicals can have deadly results.

Often ‘make shift’ labs may be found inside kitchens to make use of heating elements of stoves to complete the processes.

In some cases organised criminals will utilise domestic residences set up with sophisticated equipment capable of making large quantities of amphetamine. This apparatus is industrial scale and rarely used by unskilled cooks, though it has the hallmarks of major organised crime syndicates capable of obtaining precursor drugs & equipment to manufacture.

These are only some of the tell tale signs there is a problem, whereby if you suspect a lab is present we encourage you contact your local police or contact Crime Stoppers on 131 444 where you can advise police of your concerns. In the case of toxic fumes we advise contact police sooner rather then later due to obvious dangers present.

The Process in Australia – Meth Lab Cleaning Guidelines

The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) has produced ‘Guidelines’ in 2011, for the remediation of meth labs, the following is a synopsis of current procedures:-

  • Drug Lab Located – Premises secured as a ‘Crime Scene’ by police, Forensic & Drug Squad officers remove chemicals, drugs, laboratory apparatus etc used in manufacturing process. Police notify the Local Council Authority (Health Compliance Officer) of the drug lab locality & issue a Site Assessment Report for Council action.
  • Council Action – Council notifies the property owner & orders a preliminary assessment to determine possible risk & contamination levels. Preliminary testing can be completed by a qualified restoration technician (Mick@blueys.net.au) or a hygienist. Samples swabs are forwarded under strict guidelines to a Laboratory for testing & analysis. These results are then used to determine the extent of contamination & formulate a Remediation Action Plan (RAP) if required.
  • Initial Assessment – Where analysis results go below the Crime Commission (ACC) contamination levels of 0.5 micrograms per one hundred square centimetres (0.5μg/100cm2) no remediation will be necessary, a clearance certificate will be issued by the testing laboratory & Council will notify the owner.
  • Remediation Required – Where a Risk is identified & analysis reveals contamination above 0.5 μg/100cm2 the Appropriate Authority issues a Pollution Control/Prohibition Order or other Environmental Order against the property (and owner), which varies from State to State. Remediation cleaning will then be required to remove hazardous levels of methamphetamine, whereby an independent assessment is then completed to confirm if remediation has been successful. If readings are below the guidelines then a clearance will be issued, otherwise further remediation may be necessary
  • Each State & Territory throughout Australia has varied processes for the Relevant Authority to issue Orders & Final Clearances, contact Bluey’s and/or your local council for more information.
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