The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

July 19, 2013

Conneaut considers law dealing with meth clean-up

Dwellings that had labs would have to be certified toxic-free before occupancy

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — A proposed law coming before Conneaut’s City Council would require dwellings where methamphetamine was made to be certified toxic-free before they could be reoccupied.

The concept was endorsed by council’s Public Safety committee at Wednesday night’s meeting and will be making its way to the full council for consideration.

If the law is approved, a house or apartment where a meth lab has operated would need to be scrubbed and then evaluated by a third party before it could be rented or sold, officials said. The owner can do her own cleaning, but an outside firm would be needed to check and certify the dwelling is safe to be occupied.

“(The inspector) must be a licensed, professional firm,” said City Manager Tim Eggleston.

Like other communities in northeast Ohio, Conneaut is no stranger to meth-making operations. The drug-making process creates a harmful residue that can settle on  surfaces in rooms beyond where the drug was cooked, experts said. Police Chief Charles Burlingham said Thursday he estimates 18 properties in town would have been impacted had such a law been in effect the past year. If the ordinance is approved, addresses where meth was cooked would sit empty until they pass inspection.

“It’s past overdue,” he said of the pending regulation. “People shouldn’t be going in (dwellings where labs had operated).”

Trained police technicians will continue to remove the components of meth labs from the premises, but the law would make owners ultimately responsible for the overall cleanliness, Burlingham said.

“We take out the immediate hazards, but they’ve been able to reoccupy,” he said. “We’ve been pushing (for a law) for some time. At least test (the premises) to make sure its safe.”

Council President Thomas Udell said the law would help safeguard the health of people, especially young children, who know nothing of their new home’s history.

“So many kids are involved,” he said. “I think it would be an excellent idea.”