THORNTON, Colo. (CBS4) – Police departments across the Denver metro area are trying to figure out how they are going to pay for dangerous and expensive work. The federal money used to cover the cleanup costs of meth labs has run out.
“The amount of chemicals that are involved, the contamination to the walls and the carpeting,” said Thornton Fire’s Deputy Chief Larry Coapland. “It has the potential to be very complex.”
Coapland is now tasked with finding out who will foot the meth lab cleanup bill in the city of Thornton.
“We don’t know how many labs are out there so we’re not able to identify exactly what it’s going to cost,” said Coapland.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently notified counties and states they could no longer pick up the tab to clean up the toxic sites. Until recently, they had an $8 million national fund to do it.
Special Agent In Charge Kevin Merrill said the funding was quickly depleted with a recent increase in small meth labs popping up all over the country.
“It’s kind of a first come first as needed,” said Merrill.
Congress isn’t replenishing the fund, so the burden will fall to local departments.
“You don’t know if a lab clean up is going to cost you $2,000 or if you get a big one it could be as much as $15,000 to $20,000. In these tight budget times that is difficult for municipalities,” said Merrill.
The North Metro Drug Task Force said already this year, there have been seven meth labs to clean up in Colorado, costing roughly $24,000. That’s money that local departments said they don’t have.
“All government agencies are struggling with funding. The economy is definitely an issue, so those funds are not readily available,” said Coapland.
Coapland is working with the Environmental Protection Agency and local health departments to see if there is any funding they can apply for. That process could take a year or more.
In the meantime, cleanup bills could fall into the hands of property owners.