IN.gov - Skip Navigation

Note: This message is displayed if (1) your browser is not standards-compliant or (2) you have you disabled CSS. Read our Policies for more information.

Community Environmental Health

IDEM Environmental Health > Drug Lab Cleanup Inspection and Cleanup of Illegal Drug Labs

Table of Contents

Introduction

Illegal drug labs have become a growing problem in Indiana. In 1999, Indiana law enforcement agencies investigated 177 illegal drug labs. By 2013, that number rose to 1,808. Clandestine drug labs are found in homes, apartments, hotel and motel rooms, mobile homes, outbuildings, storage facilities, vehicles and watercraft. Property is contaminated if it has been used for the illegal manufacturing of a controlled substance such as amphetamine, methcathenone, LSD, ecstasy, PCP, GHB and the most commonly manufactured drug, methamphetamine. If you suspect the presence of an illegal drug lab, contact the Indiana State Police or complete the fillable form as part of the Indiana Methamphetamine Investigation System.

Hazards and Health Effects

Health effects caused by exposure to illegal drug lab chemicals depend on three (3) things. Those are the lab process and the chemicals used, the amount of chemical and length of exposure, and the age and health of the person exposed. Chemicals may enter the body by being breathed, eaten, or absorbed through the skin. Exposure to high levels of contaminants found in illegal drug labs can cause shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, dizziness, lack of coordination, chemical irritation, and burns to the skin, eyes, mouth and nose, and in severe cases, death.

Cases have been reported where children living in a house or other structure, which formerly contained an illegal drug lab, encountered lingering health problems. The Indiana Department of Child Services and other Indiana agencies have developed procedures [PDF] to deal with children who are affected by an illegal drug lab. If children have been affected by an illegal drug lab, contact the Department of Child Services office in your county or city.

How Indiana Responds to Illegal Drug Labs

  • When an illegal drug lab is discovered, it is reported to the local law enforcement agency or the Indiana State Police Methamphetamine Suppression Section.
  • In most cases, the law enforcement agency terminates the lab, and dismantles, removes and properly disposes of the lab contents. The officers are trained and equipped to safely enter and dismantle illegal drug labs. However, they do not remove residual contamination from the lab.
  • The Methamphetamine Suppression Section, or other law enforcement agency that terminates the drug lab, sends a written report to the local health department, the city, township, or county fire department, and, if children were present, the Department of Child Services.
  • The Department of Child Services ensures that any children involved receive proper care under the Indiana Drug Endangered Children Response Protocol [PDF].
  • The local health department prohibits occupancy of the property until it has been properly cleaned and is no longer hazardous to occupy.
  • The property must be cleaned up before it is reoccupied or sold.
  • An IDEM qualified inspector must be used to clean the property and certify that it has been properly cleaned.

Safety for Property Owners

After removal of the illicit laboratory equipment and chemicals, residual amounts of chemicals and byproducts may persist on interior surfaces and furnishings prior to cleanup. If you own, or represent the owner, of property that has been used as an illegal drug lab, do not enter the property until the local health department or a qualified inspector has determined it is safe to re-enter.

Failure to clean your property may leave you open to liability for injury to others from exposure to dangerous chemicals.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) maintains the National Clandestine Laboratory Register as a public service. The Register contains addresses of locations where local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies reported they found chemicals used in clandestine drug labs or dumpsites. Since the Department is dependent upon law enforcement agencies to provide the information and does not independently verify that information, the Department does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the Register’s contents.

IDEM’s Rules for Inspection and Cleanup of Property Contaminated with Chemicals used in the Illegal Manufacture of a Controlled Substance

IDEM's rules [PDF]:

  • Require owners of contaminated property that was used for illegal drug manufacture to clean up the property before continuing to occupy, use, reoccupy, or sell the property.
  • Offer decontamination of the property or removal of all potentially contaminated material, demolition of a structure, disposal of a vehicle, and destruction and disposal of a watercraft as options to clean up contaminated property.
  • Set criteria for persons to become listed on the qualified inspector list.
  • Set standards for inspection, decontamination, and/or removal of contaminated property.
  • Prescribe methods for sampling and testing the contaminated property.
  • Require the qualified inspector to provide a certificate that shows the property has been properly decontaminated.
  • Establish the duties of a demolition contractor in the event the contaminated property has to be demolished.

Property Owners’ Duties

After a law enforcement agency seizes a drug lab, it removes the bulk chemicals and drug making equipment from the site, residual contamination often remains because the hazardous chemicals that are used when manufacturing these drugs can contaminate the property. Property owners may choose to decontaminate, remove all potentially contaminated material, or demolish the contaminated property. Owners are responsible for all decontamination, cleanup, or demolition costs. Owners may wish to check with their insurance carrier to see if it will cover some or all of the costs. Owners may either decontaminate the property under the supervision of a qualified inspector or use a qualified inspector who will:

  • Do an initial assessment of the property, which may include testing, to determine the level of contamination and what cleanup procedures need to be done.
  • Work with the owner to determine the best and most cost effective way to clean the property.
  • Clean the property or supervise the cleanup to ensure it meets Indiana’s approved cleanup level for controlled substances of 0.5µg/100cm2.
  • Properly dispose of all waste from the cleanup or demolition.
  • Test the property when the cleanup is complete to confirm it meets Indiana’s cleanup level, and, if the final decontamination level has been met, issue the owner a Certificate of Decontamination that certifies the cleanup or demolition was done properly.

Note: Qualified inspectors will not certify work they did not do themselves or have agreed for the property owner to do under their supervision. Only a person listed on IDEM’s Qualified Inspector List can issue a Certificate of Decontamination under 318 IAC 1-5-9.

How to Find a Qualified Inspector

IDEM maintains a list of each individual who has met all requirements to become a qualified inspector. I318 IAC 1-4-2 sets forth the criteria to be listed as a qualified inspector. Both the List and information on how to become a listed qualified inspector can be found on the Qualified Inspector List.

Duties of a Qualified Inspector

  • Review the ISP Lab Occurrence Report.
  • If no ISP Report, consult with the law enforcement agency that terminated the lab and local health.department to determine the types of chemicals used.
  • Conduct initial assessment, using Method 8270C or equivalent method or practice to determine the types and levels of chemicals used and the scope and extent of contamination for the entire structure, HVAC within the structure, areas outside the structure, and the sewage disposal system.
  • Notify, in writing, the local health department, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH), and IDEM, the date decontamination will be conducted.
  • Supervise decontamination, including septic system and or sewage disposal system.
  • Notify person who pumps septic system of possible hazards.
  • Inspect the property when decontamination is complete or if the initial assessment indicates decontamination is not required.
  • Complete the Certificate of Illegal Drug Lab Cleanup (available on the IDEM Forms page) and send it to the local health department, the State Department of Health, the IDEM, and the owner.
  • Dispose or arrange for disposal of wastes in accordance with 329 IAC 3.1(hazardous wastes), 327 IAC 7.1 (septic system wastewater), and 329 IAC 10 (all other wastes).

Note: Should you conduct a demolition or supervise a demolition, the Notification of Demolition for Drug Lab Cleanup (available on the IDEM Forms page) should be used to document the demolition and then emailed to: druglabcleanup at idem.IN.gov

Disposal

In most cases, wastes from illegal drug labs can be disposed of in a permitted municipal solid waste landfill [PDF]. Contact IDEM by phone at (800) 451-6027 or via email at "DrugLabCleanup at idem.in.gov" with questions about disposing of wastes from illegal drug labs.

More Information

Links to external resources are provided as a public service and do not imply endorsement by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Contact

Contact IDEM for more information about this section by phone at (800) 451-6027, or by email at "info at idem.IN.gov".