South Carolina's methamphetamine problem could have more of an impact on families across the state than previously thought.
A FOX Carolina investigation revealed that there are no state laws regarding the disposal of contaminated furniture from meth houses or of cleaning the structure after a bust.
A current bill in the South Carolina Senate is designed to regulate the sale of ingredients like pseudoephedrine, which can be used to make meth. It does not address regulating the clean-up of homes or the contents inside.
In Laurens County, Sheriff Ricky Chastain has worked with the Building Codes Department to create their own regulations.
"EPA has guidelines. DHEC has some given us some guidance, but nothing is set in stone in terms of this is what you are supposed to do,"said Buddy Skinner, with Laurens County Building Codes.
The county recently approved their plan. If a meth bust happens, a building codes sign is hung up. It requires the house to be cleaned and inspected before it can be occupied again.
"Most of the time they're repainting, covering all the walls and from our research, encapsulation is a way to remedy the situation," said Skinner.
They have already allowed several homeowners to clean up labs after busts and to re-occupy or rent out the properties. They do not have the expensive equipment needed to test the homes and would welcome more guidelines on clean-up.
"It would be a good thing to look at," said Skinner.
In fact, a visit to a home that was deemed uninhabitable earlier this year, showed the clean-up process. After the arrests of the home's renters on meth charges, the owner was forced to clean the property.
Within a few weeks, a contractor had washed the walls and the ceilings. It had a new coat of paint. Before long, it was approved by building codes and was up for rent again. The contractor, Carl Williamson told us,
"All the walls, all the ceilings, nooks, crannies, even in the floors, mop floors with chemicals, soap and water," said contractor Carl Williamson. "Cleaned it up pretty good."
But Kent Berg, the owner of the National Institute of Decontamination Specialists in Powdersville said that concerns him.
"The appearance of cleanliness is deceiving. You can walk into many of these labs and it looks like any other house," Berg said.
He trains companies who can be hired by a home's owner to clean-up busted drug labs. Most of them come from other states, where there are more regulations. In South Carolina, there is no requirement on who a homeowner should hire to take away the residue and debris from a meth lab.
Berg said chemicals can seep into walls and floors, along with the contents of the home.
"This is the wild west when it comes to meth," Berg said. "South Carolina is the wild west. Not regulated, no law."
He believes more should be done in South Carolina to regulate the clean-up. Right now, there are only guidelines for the initial removal of the chemicals by police. Beyond that, the rules vary from county to county or do not exist.
In Laurens County, they would welcome a law creating state-wide rules for disposal of meth-exposed items and for the cleaning of homes. Until then, they will continue with their own guidelines.
We crafted what we think is certainly not the best thing in the country, but it's a start here to make our citizens a little more safer," Chastain said.
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