The discovery of a meth lab in a bedroom at an apartment complex near BYU last week is just the beginning of the process for getting rid of the dangerous drug and its residue.
Police responded to a call at Riviera apartments, 1505 N. Canyon Road in Provo, on Friday afternoon and found a meth lab. Police on Monday were still looking for the man suspected of cooking meth.
According to media reports, there was a fire at the apartment on Thursday, and roommates helped the occupant extinguish it. Later, after the occupant left, a roommate picked a lock on the door to check on fire damage and discovered suspicious material. He contacted apartment management, and then Provo police responded followed by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Now the apartment’s residents have had to move out while the unit is cleaned up. To say that it’s going to be inconvenient for the people who lived in the apartment is an understatement, said Lance Madigan, spokesman for the Utah County Health Department.
Agents from the DEA are the only people authorized to handle a meth lab, Madigan said, and wear special protective gear when they go inside. Once the DEA is done, the apartment complex will have to hire a certified contractor to clean up chemicals in the unit. No one else will be allowed inside until the cleanup is complete.
“I know they’ve basically said they can’t come back until it’s certified cleaned up,” he said.
And not only did the residents have to move out, they had to leave their belongings behind. Madigan said anything in the apartment could be contaminated, and if it’s taken out, it could spread the contamination.
“It’s some pretty icky stuff that can have some serious health hazards with it,” he said.
The health complications from being exposed to a meth lab can include headaches, nausea and vomiting, respiratory problems and eye irritation, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Neighboring apartments haven’t been closed, and those residents aren’t in danger, Madigan said.
According to the Utah Department of Health, the decontamination process takes at least several weeks, and sometimes several months, depending on the size of the home and extent of the contamination. Meth labs are so dangerous because of the chemicals used in the cooking process — they’re toxic and flammable, and can cause explosions. And each pound of meth produces five or six pounds of toxic waste.
Luckily, meth labs are rare in Utah County, Madigan said. According to the state health department, meth labs have been on the decline in Utah for more than a decade with the majority of meth used in Utah made in Mexico and California.