Archive for March, 2013
(Springfield) (AP) – For the past eight years, Shelli Owen has cleaned up meth houses.
In Springfield and surrounding counties, “we’ve been busy,” Owen said, despite an average cost to homeowners of about $3,000.
Owen’s clients are cautious folks – cleaning up these properties is not required by the state and is sparsely monitored by the city.
Dozens, maybe hundreds, of houses have been used to manufacture meth in Springfield, but no comprehensive effort exists to ensure those homes have been cleaned of hazardous remnants.
Several states and some Missouri communities that report far fewer meth labs than Springfield require homes be decontaminated before anyone moves in.
In properties where meth has been manufactured, researchers have found chemicals can linger long after the “cook” is over. Those experts say there is evidence that people who move into these spaces can suffer respiratory and neurological problems.
Any long-term health effects are unknown.
“It’s the kids and elderly people that are especially susceptible,” Owen said.
Owen says she has had clients experience trouble breathing, lightheadedness, and even develop sores in their mouths.
State and federal guidelines are available to help homeowners decontaminate property and the steps to take vary – from cleaning surfaces to gutting the house.
Owen describes the work as similar to decontaminating a place where mustard gas has been unleashed.
Springfield meth labs Dec. 2005 through Jan. 2013
In a house that tests high, carpet, drapes and other porous materials are the first to go. If a lot of meth was manufactured in the house, the walls might come down next. Air ventilation ducts are cleaned and the air is circulated to remove any remaining particulates.
Missouri law requires home sellers and landlords disclose that a meth lab was found on a property if they have “prior knowledge” that volatile chemicals were synthesized there.
But some doubt such information is always disclosed, especially if it might scare away a potential buyer or tenant.
Attorney Tobin Dunn, a partner at Rouse and Dunn Law Group in Springfield, said the law allows for remedies.
But, depending on the specifics of the case, it might not be worth the legal battle if a buyer discovers meth activity went undisclosed, said Dunn, whose firm deals with various kinds of law, personal injury, mediation and conflict resolution.
Over the last three years in Springfield, meth labs have been found in 81 houses, 22 apartments and 22 hotel and motel guest rooms, according to a News-Leader review of police data.
Of those dwellings, some decontamination actions were taken on 31 properties. One property was tested and deemed to be safe. According to records maintained by a city inspector tasked with follow-up after a lab is found, at least one meth lab site was demolished.
Many of the properties that followed cleanup guidelines were hotel and motel rooms.
A look at city records shows little follow-up – if any – to clean properties that were owner-occupied.
When Springfield police discover a meth lab, they vacate the premises and only return after donning a bio-hazard suit, gloves and mask.
The lab components and chemicals are then carefully removed and transported to Rogersville where the Combined Ozarks Multijurisdictional Enforcement Team maintains one of the state’s 17 meth chemical collection stations.
Police call it “the bunker.”
It is a thick steel, corrosive-resistant, fire-suppressing storage facility where like chemicals are combined and stored before they can be transported again.
“You never know what concoction you might find,” said Sgt. Jeff Ussery, a Greene County deputy assigned to the drug task force.
Ussery said for most labs, two officers don full bio-hazard protective gear complete with a self-contained air system.
Chemicals are separated by acids and bases; flammable and inert.
Volatile chemicals are bulked together – slowly, carefully – before being safely stored.
“You can’t imagine the man-hours,” Ussery said, describing the methodical and potentially dangerous process.
“You can’t be lackadaisical when doing it.”
Ussery said the bunker provides storage services for seven surrounding counties in southwest Missouri – likely making it one of the busiest facilities of its kind in the country.
From the bunker, the chemicals change hands again.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources contracts trucks to carry the chemicals from the bunkers to a licensed facility where the waste is “properly disposed,” said DNR spokeswoman Renee Bungart.
Bungart said the chemicals are incinerated, blended to make fuel or stored at a permanent facility.
As for the property where the lab was found, the process in Springfield is far less standardized.
After removing lab materials, Springfield police often contact a specific inspector in the city’s Building Development Services office.
Inspector Lisa Lee maintains a record of homes, hotel rooms and other properties that have been used as meth lab sites in the city.
Lee acknowledged her records are not comprehensive. The News-Leader obtained a copy of the records and discovered several meth lab sites – identified in police records – were not noted in the report.
For instance, Springfield police reported 108 meth labs in 2011. Lee’s records only account for 53.
Whether or not a dwelling was properly cleaned is not always clearly noted either.
Among the properties that were listed, several properties were not cleaned, according to the report.
With the information she receives from police, Lee sometimes sends a letter to the property owner and provides him or her with state and federal guidelines of how to clean up the dwelling.
Following the instructions, Lee notes, is voluntary. Lee also said there is no follow-up on the letter unless the property owner contacts her.
Also, if the property is owner-occupied, Lee does not attempt to make contact regarding cleanup.
Lee said she offers an on-site visit to assist property owners who are interested in properly cleaning up.
Lee said hotels and motels are particularly responsible. “So far, I have not had to twist a lodging’s arm,” Lee said.
Private residences, especially when the homeowners are suspected of being cooks, are far less likely to show interest in cleaning the property.
Chris Straw, director of Building Development Services, Springfield-Greene County Health Department spokesman Mike Brothers and city spokeswoman Cora Scott were unaware of any other effort in the city to follow up on properties that have been used to manufacture meth.
So-called remediation laws are enforced in about 20 states including Indiana and Tennessee – the only two states that report meth labs at numbers anywhere near Missouri’s.
Both states require a meth lab property with high levels of chemicals to be quarantined, cleaned and tested before it can be lived in.
Missouri’s lack of cleanup requirements have frustrated some communities in the state, leading a few to take matters into their own hands.
The city of Crestwood, near St. Louis, added a remediation law late last year after the urging of that city’s police chief.
With few meth labs ever being found in the city, Police Chief Michael Paillou never gave much thought to cleanup until a year ago, when a large lab was found in a rental property.
It took 16 hours for the lab to be dismantled and all the components removed from the home, he said. A few nearby residents were evacuated while officers did their work.
After the lab was removed and a suspect was in jail, the girlfriend of the alleged cook – along with her two teenage kids – wanted to go back in the house.
“We had no way, legally, to keep them from going back in,” Paillou recalled.
“How can we protect the kids because the family is cooking meth? That got us looking.”
(West Plains) – A reported pipe bomb found in West Plains has been destroyed by the state bomb squad.
Officials with the Howell County Sheriff’s Office tell Ozark Radio News that deputies received a report late Friday morning of a possible pipe bomb at the Doss and Harper quarry in Howell County. Deputies arrived to find what appeared to be a pipe bomb laying near the side of a nearby road.
Deputies called the Missouri State Highway Patrol bomb squad in Jefferson City, who came and disposed of the device. There is no word on whether or not the device was armed.
When Ozark Radio News receives an official report, we will give you more information.
(West Plains) – Deputies with the Howell County Sheriff’s Office received a scare Friday afternoon after a trip to the shooting range.
An initial report from the Howell County Sheriff’s Office states that a number of deputies were at the city firing range around 3 PM Friday afternoon when a number of rounds went over their head.
Deputies not at the range responded to the call and arrived shortly after 3 PM. It was later discovered that property owners adjacent to the shooting range had been target shooting, and their rounds were falling too close to the shooting range.
Deputies advised the people on the property to fire their weapons in a safe direction.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri could soon have new tax incentives for big-time sports events and some charitable donations.
Gov. Jay Nixon scheduled a news conference Friday in Cape Girardeau to announce the signing of legislation reinstating tax credits for donations to food pantries, child advocacy centers and pregnancy resources centers. Missouri once had similar incentives, but they expired in recent years.
Friday was also the deadline for Nixon to sign legislation authorizing up to $3 million of tax credits annually for organizations that host amateur sporting events such as NCAA tournaments or Olympic trials. Lawmakers hope the cash will help Missouri compete with other states.
Both bills were passed by the Legislature on March 13.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri officials have scheduled a Statehouse ceremony on Saturday to observe the state’s first Vietnam Veterans Day.
Four veterans – one each from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines – will receive special medals from Gov. Jay Nixon and Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner, the state’s adjutant general, during an event in the governor’s office.
Missouri lawmakers approved legislation last year designating March 30 as a day of special recognition for Vietnam veterans.
Nixon’s office says those being honored Saturday are Stephen Hill, of Webb City (Army); John Albright, of Sunrise Beach (Navy); Michael Puckett, of Camdenton (Air Force); and David Coleman, of House Springs (Marines).
The Pueblo, Colorado, based organization originated in 1992. Sonny Smith talks about how it all got started.
The Ozark Radio Network will be awarding the grand prize of the PBR treasure hunt during intermission on Saturday night.
(West Plains) – On Thursday of this week, we brought you the story of the West Plains R-7 School District and the South Central Career Center, and their plan to bring an agriculture facility at the corner of E. Olden and Davidson St. in West Plains.
SCCC Director Jim Laughary spoke with Ozark Radio News, and told us that the ag building is part of a larger plan to consolidate the South Central Career Center:
There are multiple reasons for the consolidation. West Plains R-7 District Finance Director Dr. Luke Boyer says that, even with the proposed renovation at the Thornburgh location, the district will save money in the consolidation:
Boyer continued and talked about the funding of the ag facility, which will be partially funded by the school district. He says that the money saved on upkeep on the football field will be funneled into the ag building:
More on the plan can be found in our Thursday story here.
(Licking) – A resident of Licking suffered minor injuries Thursday morning after the vehicle she was driving hit a dirt embankment and overturned.
17-year-old Alissa Moloney was taken by private vehicle to Phelps County Medical Center.
The accident happened at 8 AM on Route C, about 6 miles north of Licking.
(West Plains) – Tuesday of a next week is an important day in the city of West Plains. City Clerk Mallory Thompson says city residents will make important decisions:
Polls will be open Tuesday from 6 AM to 7 PM.
(Mammoth Spring) – 8th Congressional District candidate Doug Enyart will be holding a meet-and-greet with voters on Monday, April 8 at the Spring Dipper and Joe’s Diner, off of Highway 63 in Mammoth Spring, AR.
The event will start at 6 PM, however, people who wish to eat should arrive at 5:30 PM to order.
Enyart, who is running on the Constitution Party ticket, is a former US Marine and small business owner. He says he hopes to attract the support of hardworking, patriotic citizens who are unemployed or under-employed and who are tired of the partisan bickering and gridlock that defines the current 2-party system.
The event is being sponsored by the Common Sense Property Rights Coalition.