In 2007, Albuquerque, New Mexico resident Licia Henderson found what she thought would be the perfect home in Casper, Wyoming. It had two bedrooms, hard wood floors, and new carpeting, according to the realtor’s pictures. It wasn’t a large home, but Licia, a single woman, didn’t require a lot of space. All she needed was a home of her own where she could begin a new chapter in her life in Casper, a city close to 700 hundred miles from her home in Albuquerque.
With the home inspection complete, an acceptance offer from the seller, and a disclosure statement that had nothing but “rental” written across it, Licia made an offer on the home which the seller accepted. Although she had never actually toured the property or the neighborhood, nothing involving the house indicated that it had any major problems. So on April 23, 2007, Licia became the proud owner of a modest home in Casper.
Licia wasted no time in packing up her things and making the 700 mile trip from Albuquerque to her new home. Just two days after the closing, Licia walked through the door of her new home for the very first time.
A week after living in the house, Licia noticed something unusual after turning on the heat – strange pains in her chest and a weird taste in her mouth. Troubled by her new and unusual health problems, Licia discussed them with a new neighbor. It was an enlightening conversation. The neighbor told her what no one else had told her before - she was living in a home where a meth lab bust had taken place in 2005.
By the Fall of 2007, Licia got in touch with a meth lab clean up company out of Idaho and paid to have them perform meth lab testing on her home. The results of their tests revealed that her home was still contaminated and as the owner of the home the financial responsibility for decontaminating the property fell on her shoulders. In November, Licia decided to take legal action against those that she felt should be responsible for the wrong that had been done to her: the seller, the realtor who had found the house for her, the company the realtor worked for, the realtor who represented the seller and the company that they worked for. Henderson’s lawyer also accused the seller’s realtor of “toxic battery” for the health problems that Licia endured as a result of living in a home filled with toxins. The accused have all denied having any responsible for the devastating turn that Licia’s life has taken since she became the owner of a contaminated home.
The end of Licia’s meth lab story is like the ending of many meth lab home buyers. Her house fell in to foreclosure and was sold to someone else. It’s a troubling thought.
According to the Wyoming Department of Health website, “There are no pre-determined clean up levels inside a building or home for many chemicals associated with meth labs. A risk assessment may be necessary in order to evaluate the potential for exposure on a case-by-case basis”. Basically, Wyoming clean up procedures include airing out for 3 to 5 days with household cleaners, after the home has been cleared of “unnecessary items”. They also advise that the ventilation system should also be cleaned and a professional be called to deal with any contamination associated with plumbing. They also warn anyone cleaning the home to wear personal protective equipment during the clean up process.
Wyoming DOH further recommends that “If concerns of contamination remain after cleaning the building, or there is still an odor, visible staining, or physical irritation to those exposed, it’s advisable for a professional to evaluate and test these areas. Testing should also be done if there are concerns with liability issues. Sampling may provide peace of mind for property owners and families and is the most reliable way to measure the effectiveness of clean-up efforts. Guidance and standards are currently available and are being improved as more is learned about meth lab remediation. The owners should consider contacting their insurance carrier for advice and assistance”.
Licia Henderson Video by Dan Cepeda/Star-Tribune
“Cleaning up Hazardous Chemicals at Methamphetamine Laboratories”, Wyoming Department of Health, 08 October 2010, web.
Wolfson, Joshua, “Three years later, meth house still stirs controversy”, Star Tribune, 08, Nov. 2008, web. 08, Nov. 2010
For more information about Wyoming meth lab homes you can contact:
Wyoming Department of Health
2300 Capitol Avenue
Cheyenne, WY 82002
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality
Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste