The Meth Next Door: A Neighbor's Battle

By Stephanie Parkinson

November 12, 2012 Updated Nov 13, 2012 at 7:09 PM EDT

Fort Wayne, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) - Busting a meth lab is a home run for law enforcement, taking drugs off the streets, but in Indiana no one is held accountable for cleaning up the mess. A local Fort Wayne woman says after a year her neighbor's home is still holding toxic chemicals.

"Drug houses, and particularly in this case, meth lab homes are destroying our neighborhoods one house at a time,” said Lizette Downey.

September 28, 2011 is a day Lizette Downey will never forget. That was the day police raided her neighbor's house in Fort Wayne finding a meth lab.

"The hazmat suits and the whole nine yards, that was extremely disturbing. And it was hours, and it was worse than they thought, and all from basic everyday items that you can get over the counter,” said Downey.

It has been more than a year since the bust. The drugs and ingredients used were confiscated from the house during the bust but the house has not been cleaned of the toxic chemicals left behind by the meth lab.

"As part of a neighborhood association, we feel our hands are tied because there aren’t enough repercussions for property owners,” said Downey.

The process to make meth creates toxic chemicals in the air that soak into materials inside the homes like drywall and floor coverings. This poses a health risk. That's why health department officials say no one can live in this house. But being right next door it begs the question, is it a danger to Lizette and her family's health?

"I'm assured it's not but it's hard to think it couldn't be,” said Downey.

Downey says this has even changed her family’s plans for the future.

"I was planning on putting my house on the market, I can't do that. And talking to homeowners and they're talking about when they want to sell, I'm like, it's all on hold because it's indefinite, this is a several year process I'm afraid,” said Downey.

With property values at stake Lizette decided to get involved and try to make a difference.

"There's limitations because the state really only requires documentation from the health department. They only require them to come in and handle the lab in terms of confiscating the products, and drugs but not requiring any clean up, so it's just left out there,” said Downey.

Downey wants to make a change but knows it's something that will involve agencies at the local and state level to get a system in place.

"It comes back to, we don't have enough resources to accommodate this issue, because it's an antiquated law and it's not been a priority,” said Downey.

Downey has been in talks with her city councilman and state representative, but understands getting new laws on the books is anything but a quick process. For now, the contaminated home sits vacant with no deadline to be cleaned of the toxic chemicals that remain inside.

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