Fluoride Action Network

Managing methamphetamine mess

Source: Western Leader | May 22nd, 2007 | By STEPHEN FORBES
Industry type: Chemical Industry

Victor Boyd cleans up the sort of mess few people want anything to do with – the remnants of illegal methamphetamine laboratories.

The Titirangi resident got his idea for his company, Contaminated Site Solutions, while working for another commercial cleaner.

“We’d been approached by a couple of councils and they didn’t know how to deal with it,” he says.

Mr Boyd is the last person called in after a lab is discovered.

“The police and Environmental Science and Research go in and remove the utensils and chemicals,” he says. “They then notify the council, which puts a cleaning order on the property.

“The owner then has to get it tested before it is cleaned for volatile compounds.

“We get a copy of the report, which gives us an idea of what we”re dealing with.”

Mr Boyd wears a a full body suit and respirator mask to protect him from toxic carcinogenic chemicals and compounds such as hydrofluoric acid, lithium, red phosporous, brake cleaner and acetone – all used to make methamphetamine.

“You can absorb the chemicals through your skin and then into your liver, kidneys and other organs,” he says.

Decontaminating a property can cost as much as $50,000.

A recent assignment involved a house at Paritai Drive, Orakei – home to some of New Zealand’s most expensive real estate – where a lab had blown up.

“That was a huge job,” he says.

Some houses need to be demolished or completely gutted because chemicals get into everything, from the carpet and gib board to insulation and furnishings.

Plumbing exposed to the chemicals is also removed.

“These guys pour all their waste down the sink, bath, shower and toilets,” Mr Boyd says. “For every kilogram of meth there’s seven to 10kg of waste.”

Mr Boyd says many property owners don’t realise they are liable for clean-up costs.

“If it’s not covered in your insurance policy you are up for it,” he says.

He says property owners are given a set period by their local authority to do a clean-up.

Councils will often pay to have the work done if the owner refuses and will then take action to recoup costs.

Mr Boyd says landlords shouldn’t try cleaning up themselves.

Adding everyday cleaning fluids such as bleach to some of the compounds can create a chemical reaction and result in dangerous, flammable gases, he says.