Methamphetamine Lab Clean-up and Remediation Issues
CRS Report for Congress
Methamphetamine Lab Clean-Up and
Updated March 13, 2006
Michael M. Simpson
Specialist in Life Sciences
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Methamphetamine Lab Clean-Up
and Remediation Issues
Methamphetamine (meth), a drug with limited medical use and high potential
for abuse and addiction, is a subject of widespread concern. Once associated mainly
with the West Coast and white, male, blue-collar workers, illicit meth is now used
by diverse population groups nationwide, with concentrations in the West,
Southwest, and Midwest. Meth is supplied primarily by clandestine labs in
California and Mexico. The drug is relatively simple to make from easily obtained
recipes, but access to certain ingredients has become more difficult. Meth production
in small, toxic labs (STLs) increased initially due to the successful closure of some
“super-labs” (labs capable of making more than 10 pounds of meth in a 24-hour
cycle), relative ease of making meth, continuing demand for the drug, and desire for
potential wealth and involvement in a criminal underground social activity.
Although the greater fraction of meth used and distributed across the nation comes
from super-labs, the sheer number of STLs, their geographic diffusion, and their
residual impacts have prompted concern in Congress, state and local governments,
law enforcement agencies, and real estate and other groups.
Meth labs have many significant and widespread residual impacts. According
to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), there were 9,092
STLs and related meth sites in 2000 and 17,356 in 2003; the number has been
declining since. These sites can be found in a wide range of places, such as
apartments, motel rooms, abandoned buildings, and packed in car trunks in parks and
other locations. Meth makers can use common items such as mason jars, coffee
filters, hot plates, over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine or
ephedrine (e.g., Sudafed and some other nonprescription decongestants), acetone,
hydrochloric acid, and anhydrous ammonia. Making meth can result in eye and
respiratory irritations, chemical burns, explosions and fires, toxic wastes, and
contaminated surroundings. Some residual impacts of meth production threaten the
health and welfare of children removed from meth sites. This report focuses on the
residual environmental impacts of STLs.
Cleaning and remediating a meth site can cost more than $200,000, depending
on the magnitude of contamination. State and local governments that incur expenses
cleaning a site can apply to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for
reimbursement, up to $25,000 per incident. Alternatively, rather than incur costs and
apply for a capped reimbursement, state and local governments can notify DEA of
a site, and DEA will perform and pay for cleaning. In addition, funds have been
available from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to
redevelop a former meth production site.
No uniform federal guidelines or standards exist governing the process or the
endpoint for cleaning or remediating STLs. Across various states, acceptable levels
of meth residue, after remediation, range from 0.05 to 0.1 micrograms of meth per
100 square centimeters of surface. Twelve congressional bills, one enacted into law
in March, relate broadly to meth site cleaning or remediation. This report will be
updated as warranted.
In troduction ......................................................1
Production and Trafficking......................................3
Residual Impacts of Meth Labs...................................5
Cleaning and Remediating Meth Labs..................................6
Clean-Up and Remediation Procedures.............................9
Standards and Guidelines...........................................11
Grants and Authorities for Clean-Up..............................12
To Establish Remediation Guidelines.............................14
List of Tables
Table 1. Number of All Meth Incidents................................4
Table 2. United States EPA Local Governments Reimbursement
Program Clandestine Meth Lab Reimbursements.....................7
Table 3. United States DEA Meth Lab Clean-Ups and Costs................8
Methamphetamine Lab Clean-Up
and Remediation Issues
The geographic and societal diffusion of the illicit production of
methamphetamine (meth) has spread hazardous manufacturing wastes, and related
concerns, into communities nationwide. The need to reduce the potential safety,
health, and environmental hazards of these wastes, by cleaning and remediating the
sites of illicit production, consequently also has spread nationwide. “Clean-up” is the
term often used to describe removing gross, or large-scale, contaminants, such as
equipment and large quantities of chemicals; clean-up is usually done for the purpose
of securing evidence for criminal investigations, and for reducing imminent hazards
such as explosions or fires. “Remediation” is often used to describe removing
residual, or small-scale, contaminants such as chemical residues in carpeting or walls,
usually for the purpose of rehabilitating a facility for reoccupancy or reuse.
While there are many ways to make meth, the most common way begins with
over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine,1 and often
involves cooking with acetone, hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, ether, and
anhydrous ammonia to serially concentrate and purify the meth. Cooking meth,
which can result in eye and respiratory irritations, chemical burns, explosions and
fires, toxic waste products, and contaminated surroundings, can be dangerous to the
meth “cook,” to the people and community around the lab, and to those persons who
first come upon the lab, such as fire fighters, law enforcement officials, emergency
medical technicians, or social welfare workers. There are reports of emergency
medical technicians and police officers suffering burns, eye and respiratory
irritations, nausea, and other injuries not just at meth labs, but even from treating
persons removed from the labs.2
Depending on the process used and the skill of the cook, each pound of meth
produces about six pounds of hazardous waste. Illicit meth “cooks” usually dump
this waste into sewers, streams, rivers, or the ground near the lab (which may be
farmland, or land over groundwater supplies), along highways, in parks and forests,
or on hiking trails. Water used to extinguish lab fires also carries toxic chemicals
into the environment. Cooking meth can also infuse carpeting, walls, furniture, water
1 Pseudoephedrine, for example, is an active ingredient in products like Sudafed and some
other over-the-counter decongestants.
2 United States Department of Health and Human Services-Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, “Public Health Consequences Among First Responders to Emergency Events
Associated With Illicit Methamphetamine Laboratories,” at [http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/
supplies, and the ground with toxic chemicals.3 Residues of meth have been
measured as high as 16,000 micrograms per 100 square centimeters of surface, with
levels as high as 300 micrograms per 100 square centimeters as long as six months
after the last cook, sometimes far from the actual cooking area.4
While health effects on a user from direct use of meth have been well-studied,
long-term health-effects research on exposures to substances associated with illicit
meth production has just recently begun. Such health-effects research considers
impacts on children, as well as on adults, who might be in the vicinity of a meth-
There are no uniform federal guidelines or standards governing the clean-up or
remediation of former meth sites, either for meth residues themselves, or for
chemicals related to illicit meth production, partly because there is a lack of health-
effects research upon which to base such guidelines or standards. “Guidelines,” as
used in this report, are discretionary recommendations, often using the word
“should.” “Standards” are mandatory, nondiscretionary regulations which must be
followed, often denoted by words like “shall” or “prohibited.” Guidelines may be
developed by regulators into more stringent standards.
There generally have been four main approaches to cleaning meth sites. The
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can respond directly when a
pollutant or contaminant at an STL site presents an imminent or substantial danger
to public health or welfare, but most STLs do not rise to this level.5 For most STLs,
state and local governments can pay to clean a meth site, then apply to EPA for
reimbursement which is capped at $25,000 per incident. Alternatively, rather than
pay directly for clean-up and later apply for reimbursement from EPA, state and local
governments instead can notify the United States Drug Enforcement Administration
(DEA), in the United States Department of Justice, and DEA will take responsibility
and arrange for clean-up. In addition, there have been funds available from the
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to redevelop of a former
The approaches to remediate meth sites are more variable, involving private,
local, and state decisions. Remediation is an additional cost, after clean-up. Neither
EPA nor DEA funds are available for remediation. Owners of contaminated private
3 United States Department of Justice-Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
“Clandestine Drug Labs.” [http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/mime/open.pdf?Item=274].
4 Testimony by John W. Martyny, industrial hygienist and associate professor of medicine
at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, given at the United States
House of Representatives’ Committee on Science March 3, 2005 hearing on H.R. 798
“Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act of 2005”; this testimony is available at
[http://www.house.gov/ science/hear ings /full05/mar3/March32005.htm] .
5 Federal Register, vol. 63, no. 32, Feb. 18, 1998, pp. 8284-8291. For more information
about Superfund, see CRS Report RL31154, “Superfund: A Summary of the Law,” by Mark
Reisch, and “Superfund: The Hazardous Waste Cleanup Program,” by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, available at [http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/general/
property, e.g., an apartment building or a motel, need to decide whether remediation
is sensible; remediation cost estimates may exceed the value of the property. Local
or state governments need to decide whether to remediate or restrict access to a
contaminated public area, e.g., a hiking trail or parking lot in a forest. Remediation
is discussed further in the section below on “Clean-up and Remediation Procedures.”
Remediation costs vary, depending on the severity of contamination with meth
and/or meth-related compounds. The average cost to clean a meth lab is estimated
to range from $1,500 to $3,000, with some clean-ups exceeding $200,000.6 The cost
of remediating an average-size site has been estimated at $50,000, according to the
U.S. Department of Justice.7
Several factors contribute to the geographic and societal diffusion of illicit meth
production and use.
Methamphetamine (meth) is a Schedule II narcotic under the Controlled
Substances Act (CSA), Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and
Control Act of 1970. CSA regulates the manufacture and distribution of drugs, and
places all drugs into one of five schedules. A drug in Schedule II, like meth, has
current accepted medical use and has high potential for abuse.8 Meth has limited9
medical uses for the treatment of narcolepsy, attention deficit disorders, and obesity.
This report focuses on illicit use and production of meth, and subsequent clean-up
and remediation issues.
Production and Trafficking
Meth production, trafficking, and abuse, in general, are concentrated in the
western, southwestern, and midwestern United States. Meth is primarily supplied by
clandestine laboratories in Mexico and California. There are some “super-labs” (labs
6 United States Drug Enforcement Administration. “DEA Cracks Down on Meth
Manufacturing With ‘Operation Sanctioned Sins’.” January 7, 2005. Available at
[http://www.usdoj .gov/dea/pubs/states/news rel/seattle010705p.html ].
7 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, “Clandestine
Drug Labs,” available at [http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/mime/open.pdf?Item=274].
8 A drug in Schedule I has no current accepted medical use and has high potential for abuse;
examples include heroin, marijuana, and peyote. Examples of drugs in Schedule II include
cocaine, morphine, OxyContin, and amphetamine. A drug in Schedule III has current
accepted medical use and medium potential for abuse; examples include opium and Tylenol
with codeine. A drug in Schedule IV has current accepted medical use and low potential for
abuse; examples include Darvocet, Xanax, and Ambien. A drug in Schedule V has accepted
medical use and lowest potential for abuse; examples include Phenergan and Lomotil.
9 United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)-National Institute on Drug
Abuse. “Research Report: Methamphetamine Abuse and Addictions.” January 2002.
Available at [http://www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/methamph/methamph.html].
capable of producing in excess of ten pounds of meth in one twenty-four hour
production cycle) in Mexico and the United States producing meth and other drugs,
with vast networks of transporters, distributors, and money brokers who distribute
not only meth, but also cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and MDMA (more commonly
known as “ecstasy”). While meth made in super-labs is for broad distribution, meth
made in small-scale labs tends to be for personal use or limited distribution.
Successful closure in the United States of some super-labs, the relative ease of
producing meth, the continuing demand for the drug, and the desire for potential
wealth and involvement in a criminal underground social activity, contributed to an
increase, through 2003, in meth production in small clandestine labs, also known as
small, toxic labs (STLs).10 Official data aggregate the numbers of meth labs, dump
sites, chemicals, glass, and other equipment, and are reported as meth incidents.
Since 2003, the nationwide numbers of meth incidents has declined, as shown in
Table 1. Number of All Meth Incidents
(including labs, dump sites, chemicals, glass, and equipment)
Calendar YearNumber of Incidents Nationwide
Source: United States Drug Enforcement Administration, National Clandestine Laboratory Database.
“Total of All Meth Clandestine Laboratory Incidents,” [http://www.dea.gov/concern/map_lab_
seizur es.html] .
According to state law enforcement and public health professionals, the decline in
meth incidents that occurred between 2003 and 2004 was the result of a few factors:
!Some states and retailers began to institute policies to restrict access
to nonprescription pseudoephedrine-containing decongestants, a
common meth ingredient.
!Over time, the number of states and retailers restricting access to
meth ingredients increased, which made the tactic of traveling to a
nearby state or store that did not have a policy to restrict access to
meth ingredients more difficult.
!Some pharmaceutical companies reformulated their nonprescription
decongestants to exclude pseudoephedrine.
10 Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drug Trafficking in the United States.” Available
!Stiffer sentences for those convicted of illegally making meth further
discouraged involvement with STLs.11
In December 2005, Iowa state authorities reported a decline of approximately
80% following the passage, in May 2005, of a state law restricting access to
pseudoephedrine.12 Subsequent to the passage of similar laws, state officials in
Oklahoma and Oregon each reported a decline of approximately 50%.13 The decline
is expected to be seen nationwide, when complete 2005 data become available.
Although only 20% of illicit meth used in the United States comes from STLs,14
the sheer number of such labs, their residual impacts, and their geographic diffusion,
have prompted concerns in Congress, state and local governments, law enforcement
agencies, and real estate and other groups.
Residual Impacts of Meth Labs
There generally are greater concerns about the environmental wastes from STLs
than from super-labs, for several reasons. First, there is a trend for super-labs, and
their wastes, to be in Mexico, where the ingredients for illicit meth can be obtained
more easily than in the United States. Second, production processes used in STLs
tend to be less efficient than those used in super-labs, and small-scale “cooks” tend
more often to be careless, resulting in proportionally more contaminants (in the meth
and in the environment) than production processes in super-labs. Third, while there
are fewer super-labs, there are thousands of STLs across the United States:
approximately 9,000 domestic small-scale labs with capacities under 10 pounds in
11 Comments made by several participants at the Midwestern Governors Association
Regional Meth Summit, held in Indianapolis, Indiana, December 14-15, 2005, including
Marvin Van Haaften (Director of Iowa’s Office of Drug Control Policy), and Bruce Liebe
(Illinois State Police). Available at[http://www.in.gov/cji/methfreeindiana/summit/index.
13 Office of Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry. “Governor Henry Urges Other States to
Adopt Versions of Oklahoma Law Combating Meth.” September 29, 2004. Available at
[ ht t p: / / www.gove r nor .st a t e .ok.us/ di s pl ay_ar t i c l e .php?ar t i c l e _i d=373&ar t i c l e _t ype=1] .
Hon. Greg Walden. Letter, January 3, 2006. Available at
[http://www.oregonmethwatch.org/walden%20letter.pdf]. Reducing the number of STLs
can reduce environmental hazards and remediation costs, but some drug agents, emergency
medical personnel, and addiction counselors note that meth supply has not declined, because
of increased imports, and the higher cost and potency of imported meth is resulting in more
overdoses and addictions, and more burglaries to pay for the imported meth; there have been
suggestions for increased research and development, possibly through the National Science
Foundation, for more effective demand reduction programs and treatments for overdosing.
14 DEA statistics in “Senators predict passage of meth law,” article by Joseph Rose in The
Oregonian, February 25, 2005, at [http://www.nationaldec.org/news/2005-02-25-Portland
Or egoni an-Senat or s-OADEC.pdf ] .
2000,15 and 17,000 in 2004.16 Fourth, these small-scale labs can be geographically
scattered among a wide range of sites, such as apartments, motel rooms, abandoned
buildings, even packed in car trunks and moved among parks and other locations.
Fifth, the range of wastes from STLs can be more varied and unpredictable than
super-lab wastes, because small-scale, independent “cooks” may develop a new
recipe or use any of a number of meth recipes available on the internet. The range
of recipes and resulting wastes may be driven by the local availability of critical
ingredients or equipment. The range of substitutes for pure ingredients and
sophisticated production equipment may include common items such as
decongestants from retail and convenience stores, mason jars, coffee filters, hot
plates, pressure cookers, plastic tubing, and gasoline cans.
There is a range of residual impacts of small-scale labs. Children of some STL
“cooks” have been found in residences where their parents were making meth. Meth
levels as high as 5,000 micrograms per cubic meter of air have been measured during
a cook, which “almost ensures that anyone (including children) in the vicinity of the
cook will test positive for meth. Some children taken from home meth labs may
show permanent damage to their respiratory tracts and possibly to their nervous
systems.”17 The health and social welfare of these children, whether with or removed
from their parents, are issues of concern, research, and cost. Further, some meth
“cooks,” and others in the illicit drug business, have been armed and mentally
imbalanced.18 Consequently, there is a range of residual social impacts associated
Cleaning and Remediating Meth Labs
There have been four main ways to clean and redevelop a former meth lab site:
two involve EPA, one involves DEA, and the last involves HUD.
A local government, state or regional entity, or an individual can notify EPA
about a possible meth lab.19 The Agency will study the site and its findings will help
steer the next actions to be taken. For example, under the Comprehensive
15 Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drug Trafficking in the United States.” Op. cit.
16 United States Drug Enforcement Administration, National Clandestine Laboratory
Database. “Total of All Meth Clandestine Laboratory Incidents.” [http://www.dea.gov/
17 John W. Martyny, op. cit.
18 United States House of Representatives, Committee on Science, op. cit. Compiled from
testimonies given by six witnesses; all testimonies are available at [http://www.house.gov/
science/hearings /full05/mar3/March32005.htm] .
19 The process by which EPA and other entities are notified about an incident, such as
discovery of a meth lab site, is described in “How The System Works”, which can be found
at [http://www.epa.gov/superfund/programs/er/nrs/nrsworks.htm]; related information can
be found at [http://www.nrc.uscg.mil/nrcback.html].
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (P.L. 96-510, also known
as CERCLA or Superfund), EPA can respond directly when a pollutant or
contaminant may present an imminent or substantial danger to public health or
welfare, taking responsibility for cleaning the site under Superfund. Most STLs do
not rise to this level, however, and other actions may be taken.20
A local or state government can choose to clean a meth lab site, paying for costs
by itself. The local or state government then can apply to EPA for reimbursement
under Section 123 of CERCLA, via the Local Governments Reimbursement
Program. Reimbursement is limited to $25,000 per incident. The numbers of
reimbursements and dollar totals are shown in Table 2.21
Table 2. United States EPA Local Governments Reimbursement
Program Clandestine Meth Lab Reimbursements
Fiscal YearNumber ofReimbursementsTotal DollarsReimbursedDollars PerReimbursement
Total 48 $107,661 $2,243
Source: Personal communication with EPA in February 2006.
The number of applications for reimbursement has been declining in proportion22
with the number of reimbursements, as shown in the table. One possible reason is
the relative difficulty of using this process: the state or local government must first
incur the clean-up expenses, and then, with proper evidence of expended costs, apply
to EPA for reimbursement, which, if approved, may be received by the state or local
government within six months of the Agency’s receipt of the application. A second
possible reason is that this type of reimbursement is capped at $25,000 per incident.
Another possible reason relates to another alternate way to clean a meth site: notify
20 Federal Register, vol. 63, no. 32, Feb. 18, 1998, pp. 8284-8291. For more information
about Superfund, see CRS Report RL31154, “Superfund: A Summary of the Law,” by Mark
Reisch, and “Superfund: The Hazardous Waste Cleanup Program,” by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, available at [http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/general/
21 Information about EPA’s Local Governments Reimbursement Program can be found at
[ h t t p : / / www.epa.go v/ super f und/ pr ogr a ms / e r / l gr / i ndex.ht m] .
22 Personal communication with US EPA on May 12, 2005.
There is growing awareness that DEA has taken responsibility for cleaning meth
lab sites, without the need for upfront payment by state or local governments. The
numbers of DEA clean-ups have been rising while applications for reimbursement
via EPA’s program have been declining. DEA clean-ups have been performed by a
decreasing number of contractors: e.g., ten in 2001, four in 2004. The average cost
per site generally has been decreasing, largely because of increasing clean-up
efficiency resulting from increasing levels of expertise. The numbers of sites and
dollar totals are shown in Table 3.23
Table 3. United States DEA Meth Lab Clean-Ups and Costs
Yearof SitesSpentPer Site
2002 7,534 $21,720,000 $2,883
2003 8,837 16,950,000 $1,918
2004 10,037 18,935,000 $1,887
2005 8,897 17,791,000 $2,000
Total 35,305 75,396,000 $2,136
Source: Personal communication with DEA in February 2006.
Federal funds to redevelop a former meth production site have been available
through HUD’s Brownfields Economic Development Initiative. In its FY2007
budget request, HUD proposes to consolidate its Brownfields program into its
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.24 There were funding and
other limits in HUD’s program; further information may be obtained from HUD’s
Brownfields website.25 How many federal dollars were used, through HUD’s
Brownfields program, to redevelop former STLs cannot be determined, because HUD
did not record the nature of the problem that led to the brownfield.
Budget levels for HUD’s Brownfields program for FY2005 and FY2006 were,
respectively, $24 million and $10 million (with a $10 million rescission). HUD, in
its FY2007 budget request, proposes to consolidate its Brownfields program into its
23 Personal communication with DEA in February 2006.
24 United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. “FY2007 Budget
Summary.” Available at [http://www.hud.gov/about/budget/fy07/fy07budget.pdf].
25 United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Brownfields Economic
Development Initiative.” Available at [http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/
CDBG program and has requested $0 for Brownfields.26 The portion of CDBG’s
budget that will be available for redeveloping former meth sites is not specified.
Total budget levels for CDBG for FY2005 and 2006 were, respectively, $4.7 billion
and $4.2 billion; $3.0 billion has been requested for FY2007.27
Clean-Up and Remediation Procedures
Clean-up and remediation are likely to require special training and equipment.
While there currently are no uniform clean-up or remediation procedures, the range
usually includes one or more of the following measures: removal of contaminated
items which cannot be cleaned (this may involve outdoor as well as indoor items,
such as soil, water, carpeting, and wallboard); ventilation; chemical neutralization of
residues; washing with appropriate cleaning agents; encapsulation or sealing of
contaminants; providing alternate water supplies; and/or controlling access to the site
with fencing and signs. Extremely contaminated structures may require demolition,
especially if clean-up and remediation costs are projected to exceed the commercial
value of the structures.
While the decision to clean a meth site is aided by the availability of EPA and
DEA funds for clean-ups, the decision to remediate a meth site may be more difficult.
Neither EPA nor DEA funds are available for remediation, an additional action and
cost after clean-up. An owner of a contaminated private property, e.g., an apartment
building or a motel, needs to decide whether remediation is sensible; remediation
cost estimates may exceed the value of the property. An owner may seek financial
assistance for remediation from local or state governments. Local or state
governments need to decide whether to remediate or simply restrict access to a
contaminated public area, e.g., a hiking trail or parking lot in a forest.
Remediation cost is determined largely by the severity of contamination, but
also by the decision at which level of cleanliness to stop remediation efforts.28
26 United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. “FY2007 Budget
Summary.” Op. cit.
28 DEA reports the average cost to clean a clandestine lab is estimated to range from $1,500
to $3,000, with some clean-ups exceeding $200,000 depending on the severity of
contamination. DEA also reports that it spent an average $2,600 to clean each of 297 STLs
in the state of Arizona in 2002, and $3,000 to $9,000 to clean each clan lab in Arkansas.
The state of Minnesota reports state lab clean-up costs “at a minimum of $5,000 per site,”
and the state of Montana reports state lab clean-up costs of $15,000 per lab in 2001.
Remediating a clandestine lab is a further expense; the cost of remediating an average-size
site is estimated by DOJ to be $50,000. (See “Clandestine Drug Labs,” available online at
[http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/mime/open.pdf?Item=274].) “DEA Cracks Down on Meth
Manufacturing With ‘Operation Sanctioned Sins’.” January 7, 2005. Available at the
following website: [http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/states/newsrel/seattle010705p.html].
Cazenavette III, George J. (DEA Special Agent). “Statement Before the House Judiciary
Subcommittee on Crime.” February 25, 2000. This information is available at the following
address: [http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/cngrtest/ct022500_01p.htm]. Backstrom, James
There are currently no federal guidelines or standards governing clean-up or
remediation processes. While the endpoints for clean-up are relatively
straightforward — i.e., that sufficient evidence has been procured for successful
prosecution and that imminent hazards, such as explosion or fire, have been
eliminated — the endpoints for remediation are less clear. As mentioned earlier,
EPA and DEA funds previously described are for clean-ups only. No EPA or DEA
funds are available for remediation.
Nine states (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Minnesota,
Montana, Tennessee, and Washington) have feasibility-based remediation standards
specific to meth. A feasibility-based standard considers costs as a key factor. Levels
of meth residue below the standards are considered acceptable. The nine states’
standards range from 0.05 to 0.1 micrograms of meth on every 100 square
centimeters of surface.29 While some state standards only address residual meth
itself, others have acceptable levels for meth-related chemicals, such as volatile
organic compounds and corrosives.30 Some states require remediation “to be
completed by a state-licensed or otherwise certified professional.”31 States and
localities also differ in requirements to notify potential buyers, renters, neighbors, law
enforcement departments, and other governmental agencies, and/or to maintain and
make available public records of a facility having been contaminated with meth, and
whether the facility was remediated.32
While some feasibility-based standards exist, standards based on health effects
or risk do not. Standards based on health effects or risk address the question, “to
what level do we need to minimize (remediate) a contaminant in order to prevent the
C. (Dakota County Attorney). “Methamphetamine: A Statewide Concern.” January 21,
mn.us/attorney/other%20resource%20materials/pdf/MethStatewideConcern.pdf]. City of
Kalispell (Montana) Police Department. “Stop Meth.” This information is available at the
following address: [http://www.stopmeth.com]. National Drug Intelligence Center.
“Methamphetamine.” October 2000. Available at [http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs/
29 National Multihousing Council and the National Apartment Association. Op.cit., and
Green (Esq.), Sherry. Testimony given to the United States House of Representatives
Science Committee on March 3, 2005. This testimony is available at[http://www.house.gov/
science/hearings/full05/mar3/March32005.htm]. Also, the White House Office of National
Drug Control Policy, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human
Services, “State Cleanup Standards,” available at [http://www.methresources.gov].
30 The setting of guidelines or standards for meth-related chemicals is complicated by the
variability of chemicals that may be used by any given “cook;” recipes can change over time
and location, depending on the ease of availability of ingredients, reduced odor and
detectability, or other factors.
31 Green (Esq.), Sherry. Op. cit.
32 A facility may lose market value even after being remediated. “Based upon this (Kansas)
limited data, there appears to be a fifteen percent value loss for the stigma of a home
associated as a meth lab, remediated and then offered for sale,” reported Rick Stuart, CAE.
Available at [http://www.accesskansas.org/kcaa/reports/meth.htm].
average person from having adverse health effects (e.g., become sick)?”33 Lacking
standards based on health effects or risk, states and localities are using the currently
limited research information to develop “the appropriate feasibility-based standard
that must be met by a clean-up contractor and/or industrial hygienist in order to
certify that a property has been decontaminated.”34
Standards and Guidelines
The task of remediating former meth labs is complicated by the lack of uniform
standards, for the reasons discussed above:
!There are currently no uniform federal guidelines for the remediation
of former meth labs.
!Research on health effects associated with clandestine labs only
recently began, so there is currently only limited health-effects
information to guide policy choices.
!Feasibility-based standards, which consider costs, for remediating
clan labs exist, but differ among states and localities.
!Existing feasibility-based standards differ in stringency of clean-up
level, need for certification of clean-up workers, and requirements
for reporting and recording the history of a facility’s association with35
The National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws (NAMSDL) is working
toward a model act or model guidelines for the clean-up and remediation of meth lab36
sites. Members of the Alliance have noted the need for federally funded short- and
long-term health-effects studies, health-based cleanup standards, and scientifically
validated field test-kits, as well as methods for sample-collection and remediation.
Having reviewed existing state and local laws, policies, guidelines, and ordinances
pertaining to meth lab remediation, NAMSDL released its preliminary outline of key
components that the Alliance may include in a draft model act or model guidelines:
33 Green (Esq.), Sherry. Op. cit.
35 Information underlying a guideline or standard may be challenged by an affected party,
via the Information Quality Act and Peer Review requirements. For further information, see
CRS Report RL32532, The Information Quality Act: OMB’s Guidance and Initial
Implementation, by Curtis W. Copeland and Michael Simpson, and CRS Report RL32680,
Peer Review: OMB’s Proposed and Revised Bulletins, by Curtis W. Copeland and Eric A.
36 NAMSDL is the successor to the President’s Commission on Model State Drug Laws,
appointed by President George H.W. Bush. The Commissioners created a nonprofit
organization for ongoing and bipartisan work on model state drug laws. Congress began
funding NAMSDL in FY1995. For further details, see [http://www.natlalliance.org].
!State Agency Authority: oversight of clean-up program (probably
with designated responsibilities to local health departments in
regulation); set requirement for owner to clean property; promulgate
related regulation; keep database of properties deemed to be
contaminated; keep list of certified contractors and approved
!Notification Responsibilities: making uniform requirements
regarding who must be notified, when, how, and for how long, about
the existence and status of a meth lab (likely parties include first
responders, law enforcement, local health officers and departments,
building code and local or other property records officials; owners;
and the public via signage on the property itself).
!Contractor/Industrial Hygienists: certification; training; site safety
responsibilities; monitoring of contractors’ work.
!Preliminary Assessment and Work Plan.
!Decontamination Procedures: for walls, furniture, ventilation
systems, variety of surfaces; waste characterization and disposal.
!Confirmation of Decontamination: decontamination standards;
sampling methods; laboratory analytical testing.37
After various reviews and approval by NAMSDL’s Board of Directors, the model
would be distributed to Alliance contacts in the states, including governors and
attorneys general. The model also would be posted on NAMSDL’s website
In the 109th Congress, 11 bills authorize funds to help local and state
governments pay for cleaning former meth production sites. One bill provides for
research and development of remediation standards and other related activities.
Grants and Authorities for Clean-Up
H.R. 4763, the Methamphetamine Eradication Act, authorizes funds for the
COPS Program, the Byrne Formula Grant Program, DEA, EPA Local Governments
Reimbursement Program, and Department of Transportation, for remediation actions,
equipment, and training.
37 Green (Esq.), Sherry. Op. cit.
H.R. 3324 and S. 430, the Arrest Methamphetamine Act of 2005, authorizes
funds for the COPS Program and provides authority to the Attorney General, through
the Bureau of Justice Assistance, to make grants to States to undertake meth
clandestine lab environmental clean-ups.
H.R. 3889, the Metheamphetamine Epidemic Elimination Act, authorizes
funds to reimburse DEA for remediation activities.
H.R. 3199, the USA Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005,
became P.L. 109-177 on March 9, 2006. Authorized to be appropriated each fiscal
year 2006 through 2010 are $99 million to reimburse DEA for remediation work and
to support state and local environmental meth-related activities, among other things.
H.R. 1446, the Methamphetamine Abuse Prevention Act of 2005, expands
authority to include the hiring of personnel and the purchasing of equipment for
H.R. 314 and S. 103, the Combat Meth Act of 2005, would amend the
Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to authorize the use of grant
funds to hire personnel and purchase equipment to assist in cleaning
H.R. 13, the Clean, Learn, Educate, Abolish, Neutralize, and Undermine
Production (CLEAN-UP) of Methamphetamines Act, authorizes funds for grants,
through the Secretary of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration,
to state and local law enforcement for training and equipment acquisition for cleaning
former meth lab sites; funds for the United States Department of Agriculture to clean
former STLs; and funds, through DEA, for meth-related training activities.
S. 2118, To Amend the USA Patriot Act, extends certain provisions of the Act
to March 31, 2006, and authorizes funds to reimburse DEA for clean-up expenses.
S. 259, the Federal Emergency Meth Lab Cleanup Funding Act of 2005,
would make funding available from the Department of the Treasury Forfeiture Fund
for payment to designated state, local, or tribal law enforcement, environmental, or
health entities for experts and consultants needed to clean areas formerly used as
meth labs. It would also provide that if a meth laboratory is located on private
property not more than 90% of the costs may be paid only if the property owner (1)
did not have knowledge of the existence or operation of such laboratory before the
law enforcement action to close it or (2) notifies law enforcement not later than 24
hours after discovering the existence of such laboratory.
To Establish Remediation Guidelines
H.R. 798, the Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act of 2005, passed
by the House on December 13, 2005, would require the Assistant Administrator for
Research and Development of EPA to establish (1) voluntary guidelines, based on
the best currently available scientific knowledge, for the remediation of former meth
laboratories, including guidelines regarding preliminary site assessment and the
remediation of residual contaminants, and (2) a program of research to support the
development and revision of such guidelines. It also would direct the Assistant
Administrator to (1) periodically convene a conference of appropriate state agencies,
as well as individuals or organizations involved in research and other activities
directly related to the environmental or biological impacts of former meth
laboratories, and (2) enter into an arrangement with the National Academy of
Sciences for a study of the status and quality of research on the residual effects of
meth laboratories. H.R. 798 also would require the Director of the National Institute
of Standards and Technology to support a research program to develop (1) new meth
detection technologies, with an emphasis on field test kits and site detection, and (2)
appropriate standard reference materials and validation procedures for meth detection