EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Meth making isn't confined to the seedy side of town anymore.
Meth spares no county, no city, or virtually any neighborhood.
So where are the meth labs?
And when one gets dismantled, how do you know if its safe to live there?
Orchard Gate Apartments Manager Ray Funke said she was an exceptionally clean tenant. But now, he is surveying the damage done by a meth lab explosion and fire last month.
That explosion destroyed an apartment, severely burned one of his tenants and left an expensive and dangerous mess.
"It's scary," Dwayne Caldwell, the Environmental Health Supervisor with the Vanderburgh County Health Department said. "Within eight days of this fire, we had four more meth fires in Evansville, and that's just in Evansville. That's not Vanderburgh County, that's not Southern Indiana, that's Evansville."
Then on January 29, there was one on East Virginia, and five days later, a man was burned while cooking meth at Diamond Valley apartments.
The recent spike in meth production likely means there's a former lab in a house down the street or maybe even where you live right now.
"When we first started dealing with meth and I would say that was probably four years ago, we used to get two a month, now I'm getting probably four a week," Caldwell said.
Tracking and testing them all has turned into a big job for Caldwell.
"If you think about a smoker's home and you go in and the walls are coated with that yellow kind of a slime, this is the same thing," Caldwell said. "The residue from a meth cook is going to accumulate on walls, carpets, furniture and when people come in contact with that it's very harmful."
A qualified IDEM inspector is required to do wipe testing to see if any meth residue is left.
"If it's very bad. Houses have been gutted down to the studs. If its not so bad, we'll do like a triple cleaning and you should be safe," Caldwell explained.
It's been over a year since a meth lab was busted in an apartment on West Virginia.
"I've seen pot smokers move in and out but as far as meth, he was the first one that kind of scared me," Maintenance man Ken Small said.
But it still can't be rented because it's not been declared safe.
Tests on the Orchard Gate apartment came back negative, but Ray Funke's still got a lot of work ahead of him.
"By the time we get everybody involved, the insurance companies, the electrical people, plumbing people, the drywall people, again about three to four months has expired," Ray said.
It's hard for Ray and other landlords to keep tabs on illegal activity in every unit, but there are options.
"They really need to talk to a real estate attorney and find out how to craft a lease that gives them the right to go in and do inspections, to limit the number of people living in a home and to make sure they are protecting their property," Caldwell explained.
Another way to be proactive is to find out where labs have been.
A huge data base called the National Clandestine Laboratory Register lists the location of every known meth lab since 2004.
Your local health department should also have public records of all meth labs that have been cleaned up.
A qualified inspector must issue a certificate of decontamination to make it official.
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