The Meth Next Door: Cleaning Up the Mess (Map)

By Stephanie Parkinson

November 13, 2012 Updated Nov 13, 2012 at 7:18 PM EDT

Fort Wayne, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) - Meth labs are a growing problem in Indiana. Last year 1,500 labs were busted, but the more shocking fact is that Indiana State Police believe that was only 5 percent of the meth labs in the state.

"Probably many folks are unaware, meth labs are now operating right in the city limits. We think about these as out in the rural areas or up in the hills or whatever and we see them operating in our neighborhoods,” said Geoff Paddock, Councilman, City of Fort Wayne:

In 2006 a new state law was enacted in Indiana certifying local law enforcement agencies to process meth labs. Since then 49 operational labs have been found in Allen County, mostly in Fort Wayne, but 19 of those buildings are still sitting vacant with toxic chemicals left inside.

View Meth Lab Activity in Allen County, 2008- 11/2012 in a larger map

"The law is written in such a way that the onus is on that property owner to clean it up, and more or less, if they so choose," said Mindy Waldron, Fort Wayne Allen County Health Department.

That's the frustrating part for officials. The law can't stop the home from sitting vacant and being left as is.

"You can not inhabit the home until it's abated but it doesn't require that the home be abated," said Waldron.

The household items used to manufacture meth can all be concealed in a backpack which causes these labs to go easily unnoticed. Those chemicals and materials are taken when police raid these houses. But the toxic chemicals these labs leave behind soak into the drywall and carpet making the buildings a health hazard.

"When this law was passed I think it was a first step,” said Waldron.

But local enforcement officials hope to see more action at the state level to make sure these homes are properly cleaned.

"They need to tie something to it requiring that it be done in a time-frame or a penalty occurs,” said Waldron.

"We've got to come to grips with this. How do we clean this up? What do we do collectively as a city, and a county, and a state?” said Paddock.

Although county and city officials can't take action against the people who own these homes the health department does routinely check to make sure these houses are closed up and no one is living inside.

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