Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Company makes a living cleaning up meth cook sites in West Virginia

As of Nov. 30, 2014, West Virginia state police had busted 290 meth labs, down from 531 in 2013, but an increase from 2012 (284 busts), 2011 (229 busts), 2010 (154 busts) and 2009 (146 busts). That's 1,634 meth lab busts in one state in less than six years. While the busts make the news, one has to wonder what becomes of the sites after law enforcement have finished their investigations.

What happens is that people like Jennifer McQuerrey Rhyne step in. Her company, the only one in the state dedicated solely to cleaning up meth sites, cleans up about 20 sites per year, getting paid around $10,000 per job. Journalist Nick Klepper, who shadowed Rhyne and her team at a clean-up job in Clarksburg, details for Vice the process her company goes through in cleaning up a meth site. (Klepper photo: Cleaning up a meth cook site in Clarksburg)

At the Clarksburg site, Rhyne "tested surfaces in each room with a kit, and only three of them had enough meth residue to meet West Virginia's standard for contamination, 0.1 micrograms per 100 square centimeters," Klepper writes. "Then she filed paperwork with the state Department of Health and Human Resources and awaited an OK to clean, a process that can take weeks, much to the annoyance of landlords."

"The process of cleaning up a meth site is not all that complicated, chemically speaking," Klepper writes. "The solution Jennifer and her crew use is a mix of carpet cleaner, degreaser and dish soap. Like the ingredients for meth itself, all that can be bought at Lowe's. They spray it onto every surface. It usually takes three sprays and scrubs before the residue is below the state standard."

"Jennifer deposits everything she takes from a site at a municipal landfill, where it is buried, but first she has to photograph each item and file an accompanying form, all of which goes to the state," Klepper writes. "After conferring with a few sanitation workers sitting in a trailer, she drives the truck to a set of metal dumpsters full of tires, stoves, bedframes and five-gallon buckets. The place smells like gasoline and burned plastic. Jennifer puts on gloves, photographs each item and tosses it into a dumpster." (Read more)

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