Waldron said county health departments don’t have the power to condemn a house and have little power enforcing the evacuation notices they’re charged with posting.
“Just today, somebody ripped down a notice we just posted on a house,” Waldron said earlier this week. “We don’t carry guns, we’re not the police. How are supposed to enforce this?”
State officials are compiling an online database of every meth lab busted by address. The database will include information about whether a location, if a dwelling, has been decontaminated by a certified cleanup company.
But police and environmental officials say that database is still months away from being operational.
Meanwhile, local officials worry that as the number of meth lab busts rise, there will be more vacant, contaminated houses in their communities.
“I have two houses like that within a block of my office that have sitting vacant since July,” said Plymouth Mayor Mark Senter, a former state trooper who served on a clandestine drug lab team. “There’s nothing I can do about them.”
Senter is worried that the houses may revert to the county tax rolls and be bought up a speculator who won’t invest money in cleanup. He supports a measure to require anyone buying a meth-contaminated house through a sheriff’s sale to pay cleanup costs so that the burden doesn’t fall on the county or city.
McNamara’s legislation is still a work in progress. She hasn’t filed her bill yet, but she wants to include language that would require sellers of meth-contaminated houses to disclose that information in the buyer’s purchase agreement. She also wants to find a way to strengthen the enforcement powers of county health departments and help state officials track contaminated houses to see if they’re getting cleaned up.