Meth Homes On The Market

Newschannel 6 is uncovering potential dangers in Texoma neighborhoods.  Families are buying and renting houses once used as meth labs. The dangerous chemicals used to make meth can seep into the walls, the carpet, your faucets and can cause some serious health issues. We're going to show you how to find out your home's history, as many have know idea the potential dangers it could pose. Newschannel 6 Lindsey Forst gives us a closer look at this scary reality and the things you should be looking for when in the market for a new place to call home.

"They have special protective suits, gloves and breathing equipment that they use prior to entering the house to dispose of labs," Wichita Falls Police Officer Timothy Johnson said.

The chemicals used to make meth are dangerous. That's why law enforcement takes every precaution when cleaning up these labs.

"Most of the chemicals you come across in meth labs are toxic and they are combustible/flammable," Officer Johnson said.

Residue from a dangerous cocktail of anhydrous ammonia, methanol and other hazardous chemicals stays behind once the lab is long gone.

"Lightheadedness, dizziness, chest pain, fatigue, are some of the short-term things you might have with exposure from the lab or leftovers from the lab," Officer Johnson said.

He said these symptoms are just from short term exposure.  There are a number of serious health concerns linked to the chemicals used.

"Cancer, brain damage, liver damage, miscarriage, birth defects things like that," Officer Johnson said.

We met with Service Masters, a professional cleaning company to learn more. General Manager, Frank McKnight said the toxic residue can get on the walls, ceilings, and soaks into any fabrics in the house, like carpet and furniture.

"Depending on what's happened in the house, they put a lot of stuff down the drain.   You may have to remove commodes, chances are you might have to remove showers or tubs and go down and replace plumbing in the house," McKnight said.

Learning about your home's dark past starts with reading the fine print.  If you're buying a home that is a former meth lab, the seller is supposed to inform you.  Wichita Falls realtor Ashton Gustafson tells us you'll find that in the disclosure notice.  We got a copy of one and there's one line asking if the property has ever been used for manufacture of methamphetamine.  The yes or no option is buried among some thirty plus others the seller signs off on as being true.

Officer Johnson says it comes down to honesty and you could easily get into a situation where you are unaware.

Newschannel 6 alerted a Wichita Falls family to dangers in their home. They had no idea their house had once been the site of a Nazi meth lab. The homeowners didn't want to talk on camera, but were shocked when we told them what had taken place in their home. The family was never told police raided it in 2000, finding not only chemicals and equipment used to make the drug, but also a video surveillance system, night vision equipment and police scanners.

We learned about the bust on Beard St. by starting with the U.S. Justice Department's National Clandestine Laboratory Register. On it, 67 Wichita County addresses dating back to 2004 indicate the presence of drug labs or dumpsites. However, there is a disclaimer stating these locations are not verified and to contact local law enforcement agencies to confirm what happened there.

So, before knocking on doors, that's exactly what we did.   We reached out to Wichita Falls Police, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Wichita County Sheriff's office and the district attorney's office. After finding out which homes actually had full blown labs, for our own safety, we then had to confirm different people now lived in the home. In case the suspects arrested in the bust had bonded out and still lived there. .
     Through the four law enforcement agencies we were only able to find out this information on two of the nearly 70 addresses on the register, the home on Beard and another on Pecanway Drive.  The people who live in the Pecanway house did know the home's history.  They had purchased the property from a bail-bondsman several years ago. Although they, too, didn't want to go on camera, they told us the home was cleaned before they moved in.

So, what can you do to assure the safety of your home?

" Take a look around the property.   If you see things out of the ordinary like propane tanks, fire extinguishers have been open, coffee filters and empty cans of camping fuel,"  Officer Johnson said.

Although, you may not notice visible signs if the seller is not the criminal and the drug lab was there long before they moved in.

But, there are other ways to find out what went on years ago in the place you're about to call home.

"Do a public records check of your address.   Talk to the neighbors, see what they have to say about the people who lived there before you and the type of activity that's gone on and that could help you make a more informed decision," Officer Johnson said.

Keep in mind, a number of drug labs are never discovered. If you have suspicions, Service Masters suggests bringing in an industrial hygienist to do an air quality test and paint chip test to determine if there is a contamination for meth residue. They also tell us typically insurance companies won't cover the cost of any clean up. 

For a closer look at the National Clandestine Laboratory Register click here.