Many homes or apartments in Wyoming are contaminated by methamphetamine and if you move into one of those places, you may not know it. It can lead to health problems and be expensive to clean up. Wyoming is one of the few states that does not require disclosure of a meth-contaminated home.
Sheridan realtor Dan Casey remembers when he first got caught. Casey had a client who had bought a home during a foreclosure sale and after his client fixed the place up he tried to re-sell it. Casey said they were close to a deal when a neighbor stopped by.
“We got an offer right away on the house and right during the inspection phase the potential buyer was walking around and the neighbor came by and said…oh the people who used to live here were meth users…this was a meth house.”
Casey and the homeowner were frustrated because it required extensive clean-up. He says local law enforcement and the Department of Family Services both knew that it was potentially contaminated.
“That the DFS had been called for drug use, you know the police department had been called for drug use, but these separate governmental parties were never talking to each other and this poor investor got stuck with a contaminated home.”
Clean-up can cost between five and 15-thousand dollars. Another former realtor David Walker and Casey started a firm called 307 Environmental which is one of the companies in the state that cleans meth contamination. While meth labs, where the drug is cooked, cause the greatest problem, Walker and Casey claim that simple meth use can also contaminate a home. Walker said cleanup can take a week.
“What you have to do is remove anything that’s a porous item like your carpet, your curtains, anything that can absorb the meth. We remove all that and then we go back and do a dry clean and then we do a couple of wet cleans on the whole house and then we also clean the ducting system, because even if you clean the house and turn the furnace back on it will contaminate the whole house.”
Because the cost of some property owners never clean up a home and sometimes they are left abandoned. That’s what happened to a home in a popular area in Cheyenne that’s been abandoned for several years. Lovell Representative Elaine Harvey said there are several such homes across the state.
“To have a meth house that is abandoned and doesn’t get improved, doesn’t get cleaned up, it devalues the property all around them.”
That’s why Harvey tried to pass several pieces of legislation to address the issue. The first would have required notification that a piece of property was a former meth house. Harvey said that legislation was defeated because the majority of lawmakers say it’s a case of buyer beware. Harvey tried to get restitution money from the meth users and some state funds to help landlords pay for cleanup.
“The landlord is the one left holding the bag quite often, well, almost 100 percent of the time.”
But Harvey said those attempts also failed.
“The sentiment on the floor as we discussed this was that the landlord needs to be more diligent to who he rents to and he needs to inspect his property more often to make sure that things like this don’t happen.”
Without any legislation, there is no real way for someone to know if they’ve moved into meth-contaminated home without testing the home themselves. Harvey worries about unsuspecting families who might move into a contaminated property, especially if they have young children.
Cheyenne Dr. James Caswell said children crawling around on a carpet that has soaked up chemicals is a concern and the child could get seriously ill, but that most of the health concerns for healthy adults would come from moving into a place where meth was cooked.
“You can respiratory issues, you can get sinus issues, and that’s just from the chemicals being irritating.”
State Epidemiologist Doctor Tracy Murphy added that research shows that health effects from a place where meth was either cooked or used can vary.
“It’s probably unlikely that a person is going to have a high enough exposure to those chemicals to cause serious health concerns, but some of those chemicals with long-term exposure have been shown to cause cancer, so certainly you’d want the environment to be cleaned up.”
Back in Sheridan, David Walker and Dan Casey of 307 Environmental have spoken with realtors across the state in an effort to get them to test homes for meth contamination prior to a sale and they have spoken with a local legislator about letting the public know if a home is contaminated. Casey said this problem shouldn’t be left to landlords and realtors to figure out.