News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

July 5, 2014

Finding a meth lab

Online tracking, verifying of former clandestine sites

TERRE HAUTE — Finding out if a property has been the previous site of a clandestine methamphetamine lab has become easier through a new online database recently rolled out by the Indiana State Police.

Located online at www.meth.in.gov, the database is required by House Bill 1141 to provide the public with information about properties — homes, outbuildings, motels, businesses and vehicles — that may be contaminated by the chemicals created in the illegal manufacturing of methamphetamine.

“I think the website is definitely a great tool for people who want to find out that information,” ReMax real estate agent Mark McCreery told the Tribune-Star. “An educated buyer is the best buyer we can hope for.”

The legislation for the database came about as a result of illnesses reported by real estate agents and prospective homebuyers who became sick after unwittingly entering structures that have been contaminated by meth’s noxious fumes and byproducts.

The website provides the user with the date of seizure, county, street address, type of lab and location of the lab on the property listed. In addition, labs seized in vehicles will have the vehicle identification number listed if the lab was seized after Dec. 31, 2012.

The website also allows users to see what type of lab was seized — since there are various ways of cooking meth — and if the lab was inside a residence, outbuilding, a motel, business or if it was  found in an open area such as a woods, field or ditch.

A viewer on the page will see data for the entire state, but can filter the data to display only specific counties. A viewer can also input an address to see if that site has had a reported meth lab.

Only labs that have been reported to the Indiana State Police either through an ISP criminal incident report or via EPIC 143 report submission by another police agency will be listed on the website. The address lists have specific timelines and delisting requirements under HB 1141.  If the address fits within the statutory timelines, users will be able to download the ISP Occurrence Report and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Certificate of Illegal Drug Lab Cleanup submitted for a particular property.

A recent look at the meth lab locations in Vigo County show 164 listings between Jan. 9, 2007, and April 17, 2014. The majority were located in 2009 when 42 labs were reported. The lab sites dropped to 19 in 2010, 19 in 2011 and 15 in 2012, but spiked at 41 in 2013. Nine labs had been reported through mid-April of this year.

A look at the addresses revealed that some sites had been the location for meth labs on more than one occasion. Some sites also had multiple labs in multiple locations — such as inside a dwelling and in a garage or outbuilding — on the day that police located and cleaned up the meth lab.

The majority of the labs reported in Vigo County have been the one-pot method, according to data on the website.

Looking up the location of the meth labs online through the Vigo County property tax records also revealed that many of the structures had been demolished after the meth lab was discovered. State law requires that structures are condemned when a meth lab is discovered inside. But, the property can be cleaned up and tested by certified contractors so that the structure can be occupied again. That cleanup information is also available online at www.meth.in.gov.

A property owner can also choose to do the cleanup and have the dwelling certified for occupancy.

That is what happened with one house in West Terre Haute, located on East Johnson Avenue.

After the owners were arrested for manufacturing methamphetamine due to a meth lab explosion in the home, the property sat vacant for months. A neighbor down the street, however, checked out the property when it went up for sale, and decided to invest in cleaning up of the house.

The new property owner, who requested that her name not be used for this article, said she had experience remodeling homes. So, she hired contractors to do a lot of the work, including having the drywall and flooring replaced in the two-story house. She said she also had a new furnace installed, and discarded a lot of the left-behind personal belongings that had probably been tainted by the meth lab.

The house has remained empty during the remodel, she said, and she now has a renter, whom she trusts, lined up to occupy it.

Real estate agent McCreery said he has dealt with property owners who have had to completely remodel structures that were condemned due to the presence of meth labs. He said he felt those properties were safe to sell because the property owner had followed the remediation guidelines.

“I know that because of asking the seller what was the reason for the extensive renovations,” he said. “I asked if it was a fire and they said it was due to meth and the work was required.”

In looking a surrounding counties in the Wabash Valley, the website lists Sullivan County as having 93 labs located during the past six-plus years. Clay County lists 72 clandestine lab locations. Vermillion County has 57 lab locations. Parke County has 62 locations on the website. Those numbers can change as new locations are added, and some are removed.

If it has been disclosed through a real estate transaction that a lab was on the property for sale but it is not listed on the website, contact the ISP Meth Suppression Section at 317-234-4591 to determine if the property was delisted after cleanup or if a lab was never reported to the Indiana State Police for that location.

Anyone wanting to check out the ISP meth lab locations database can go www.meth.in.gov and click on “clan lab addresses.” Scroll to the bottom of the webpage to see the table, which can be filtered by county.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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