Responsibility of meth lab clean-ups a ‘grey area’

The clean-up of meth houses remains a 'grey area' in Australia, with industry technicians calling for guidelines to combat price gouging.
Image: ABC Ice Wars

The clean-up process of meth houses remains a ‘grey area’ in Australia, with industry technicians calling for guidelines in order to avoid price gouging by some companies.

A new documentary series on the ABC Ice Wars revealed 3707 meth labs were detected across Australia in the past five years to 2014, but it still remains unclear how the chemical clean-up should be done and who is responsible to ensure the process is completed correctly.

Jackie Wright, toxicologist, environmental risk sciences, who was interviewed for the documentary said it’s the council’s responsibility to notify tenants if the property has previously been used as a meth lab, but this is not always the case.

“The council are meant to notify the owner. The council are then meant to organise for a qualified person to test it to see how much contamination is left behind. A cleaning company will then come and then there’ll be some more testing done to check it’s clean enough and safe enough to live in.

“Unfortunately what commonly happens is that councils don’t want to take responsibility for the meth labs so they don’t notify the owners; they just sit on the information.”

Small portion of meth labs professionally remediated

Jenny Boymal, managing director of Jena Dyco International, told the ABC only a small portion of meth labs discovered each year in Australia are professionally remediated.

“There are a huge amount of labs out there and on the whole they’re not remediated. I can guarantee that out of the 600-plus meth labs that are discovered every year there’s a small fraction that have been professionally remediated, which is a concern,” Boymal said.

“The big issue with meth labs is that people don’t know the property has been used as a meth lab. Often what happens is that people will move into a property and it’s not disclosed to them that it was a meth lab. They notice they’re getting quite sick and can’t work out what’s going on. Then, once they trace it back, they realise remediation didn’t take place.”

Industry standards needed to avoid “astronomical” prices

Ahmad Merhi, lead technician of Living Fresh Specialist Cleaning Services, said a lack of guidelines for the clean-up process has led to technicians and hygienists charging “astronomical” prices. He noted one hygienist he’s aware of charges $16,000 for initial meth testing, while another charges $2800.

“This business at the moment is run by the mafia, that’s the way I look at it because there [are] no guidelines. There are hygienists out there demanding astronomical prices for testing and the testing is so simple.”

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