The number of clandestine drug labs in Indiana has steadily increased through the years, posing a serious danger to Hoosiers. In addition to exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals, threats to the public include criminal activity, drug proliferation, immediate hazmat threats (explosions, fires, chemical burns, vapors), and persistent residual contamination.
To address these threats, the Indiana General Assembly enacted Public Law 192-2005 which
- regulated further the sale of products containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine;
- extended the definition of environmental contaminant to include chemicals used in the illegal manufacture of a controlled substance or its immediate precursor(s);
- required all law enforcement agencies to report meth labs to the Indiana State Police, local health department and local fire department following the termination of operation; and
- required the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to maintain a list of persons qualified to inspect and clean property polluted by a contaminant and to adopt regulations to prescribe the inspectors' qualifications.
Thereafter, that agency promulgated Title 318 Indiana Department of Environmental Management: Inspection and Cleanup of Property Contaminated with Chemicals Used in the Illegal Manufacture of a Controlled Substance, which was formally adopted in February 2007 and readopted in its entirety in August 2013. In 2018 the Indiana General Assembly transferred the Qualified Inspector program to the Indiana State Department of Health.
The main responders involved in the process of seizing a methamphetamine lab and ultimately decontaminating the property where it was found include the Indiana State Police, Local Health Departments, and private (for-hire) Qualified Inspectors.
- proactively suppress illegal drug lab activity;
- investigate suspicious illegal drug lab activity;
- use enforcement, education and partnerships to suppress meth production;
- remove labs, bulk chemicals, reactions, and those things that pose an immediate threat to public safety and the environment;
- collect evidence; and
- maintain a Database of Clandestine Lab Addresses that reflect properties in which ISP has found labs, bulk chemicals, reactions, precursors or paraphernalia.
- protect public health by ensuring that the contaminated properties remain vacant until they are cleaned up;
- issue an abatement order under Ind. Code 16-41-20 to the property owner to address the illegal drug lab; and
- release the property once the Qualified Inspector has provided sufficient documentation to reflect that the decontamination has been properly addressed.
The Qualified Inspectors:
- are qualified by the Indiana State Department of Health under 318 IAC 1 et seq. to address the potential contamination of the property; and
- are hired by property owners to test to determine contamination levels and, if necessary, decontaminate and certify the property as ready to be reoccupied or sold.
While not involved in the direct disassembly of the labs or the return of the property to a non-decontaminated state, other agencies too play a role. The Indiana State Department of Health, Environmental Public Health Division:
- trains and regulates the Qualified Inspectors;
- maintains the list of Qualified Inspectors;
- consults with and provides technical assistance to local health departments; and
- serves as a repository for the documentation of the properties connected to illegal drug labs.
If a child was present, or not present but evidence suggested they resided or visited often at the property where an illegal drug lab was found, the Indiana State Police contacts the Indiana Department of Child Services so that it may initiate an investigation into the child's welfare. The Indiana Department of Child Services:
- ensures implementation and fulfillment of the Indiana Drug Endangered Children Response Protocol; and
- develops policies, provides health care payment codes and additional resources.
If a fire and/or explosion occurred at the property, the local fire departments will be involved as well.
For more information:
- Indiana State Police- Districts
- Indiana State Police Meth Lab Seizure Statistics
- Indiana State Police-Report Suspected Meth Activity
- Indiana Department of Child Services- Local Offices