Department of Health Seal

TGM for the Implementation of the Hawai'i State Contingency Plan
Section 9.6
METHAMPHETAMINE LABORATORY CLEANUP

9.6 METHAMPHETAMINE LABORATORY CLEANUP


9.6.1 Background

Methamphetamine, also known as "meth," "speed," "crank," "crystal" and "ice," is a very powerful man-made drug that affects the central nervous system. Manufacture of methamphetamine is illegal. The product is often made in makeshift laboratories set up in rented property, including houses, apartments and hotel rooms. The majority of current operations in Hawai‘i are believed to be small scale.

Many of the chemicals used to produce methamphetamine are highly volatile and toxic. These chemicals can cause death or injury to the lab operators and other occupants, law enforcement officials and first responders to lab explosions.

The number of properties contaminated by illegal methamphetamine laboratories has been increasing through the years. After the operations move or are shut down, property owners are often left with unknown and not necessarily obvious levels of contamination. Carpeting, wall board, ceiling tile, wood and fabric and other materials in a building can absorb the chemicals used in meth labs. Furniture or draperies also can be contaminated. Contamination can spread to other areas of the building if residues enter the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. Soil or groundwater may become contaminated if chemicals are disposed of in a septic system or dumped outside.

Detailed information and guidance on methamphetamine laboratory cleanup can be found at the HEER Office meth labs webpage. The webpage contains fact sheets, policies, and useful links outside of the website. A brief overview is provided below.

9.6.2 HDOH Guidance

In 2006, Act 170 was signed into law in response to concern over the potential health effects associated with residual methamphetamine and related contaminants at these operations. The Act required HDOH to establish administrative rules for the cleanup of these sites. These rules became effective in November 2007. Guidance was prepared and published in July 2010 (HDOH 2010c).

The guidance discusses methamphetamine manufacturing in Hawai‘i, safety considerations during inspection and testing of former operations, hazardous materials disposal, decontamination procedures, reporting, and criteria that must be met before a No Further Action determination can be made by HDOH.

9.6.3 Investigation Process

The HDOH HEER Office provides general oversight for the decontamination of methamphetamine manufacturing sites upon referral by the chief investigating law enforcement officer and coordination with the property owner. Testing is carried out prior to commencement of remediation activities.

The HEER Office reviews and approves the field sampling plan, quality assurance project plan, hazard assessment and recognition plan and health and safety plan submitted by the cleanup contractor(s). The contractor in most cases is hired by the property owner, unless a separate responsible party can be located to conduct sampling and decontamination. HDOH itself does not carry out sampling or decontamination activities.

Chemicals of potential concern to test for at former methamphetamine operations are necessarily site-specific. A number of methods are used to synthesize methamphetamine. The active ingredient is derived from one of three chemicals, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine. Other chemicals used in the synthesizing process include iodine, red phosphorous , hydrochloric acid, ether, kerosene (e.g., Coleman fuel), paint thinner, acetone, drain cleaner, battery acid, lithium batteries, hydriodic acid, and anhydrous ammonia.

Table 9-7 includes a summary of chemicals that typically need to be included for testing for former methamphetamine labs and their associated hazards.

Table 9-7 Chemical Hazards Associated with Illegal Methamphetamine Labs
Typical Chemicals Found in Lab Sites Common Legitimate Uses Poison Flammable Toxic Vapors Explosive Corrosive Skin Absorption Common Health Hazards
Acetone Fingernail polish remover, solvents X X X     X Reproductive disorders
Methanol Brake cleaner fluid, fuel X X X     X Blindness, eye damage
Ammonia Disinfectants X   X   X X Blistering, lung damage
Benzene Dye, varnishes, lacquers X X   X X X Carcinogen, leukemia
Ether Starter fluid, anesthetic X X   X     Respiratory failure
Freon Refrigerant, propellants X   X   X   Frostbite, lung damage
Hydriodic Acid Driveway cleaner X   X   X X Burns, thyroid damage
Hydrochloric Acid (HCL Gas) Iron ore processing, mining X   X   X X Respiratory, liver damage
Iodine Crystals Antiseptic, catalyst X X   X X   Birth defects, kidney failure
Lithium Metal Lithium batteries X       X X Burns, pulmonary edema
Muriatic Acid Swimming pool cleaners X   X   X   Burns, toxic vapors
Phosphine Gas Pesticides X   X     X Respiratory failure
Pseudoephedrine Cold medicines X           Abuse: Heart damage
Red Phosphorus Matches, fireworks X X X X     Unstable, flammable
Sodium Hydroxide Drain cleaners, lye X   X   X X Burns, skin ulcers
Sulfuric Acid Battery acid X   X   X X Burns, thyroid damage
Toluene Paint, thinners, solvents X X X X   X Fetal damage, pneumonia
Liquid Lab Waste None X X X X X X Unknown long term effects

Reference: HDOH 2010c

Prior to issuance of a No Further Action determination, the HEER Office confirms that each remediation process has been completed according to the approved work plan, and that the property has been decontaminated to below state-approved levels of concern. Refer to the full guidance for additional details (HDOH 2010c).