Northampton, Massachusetts: Who’s responsible for the cost of meth lab clean up in a state that doesn’t have clean up standards? According to the city of Northampton, who posted a quarantine notice on the apartment building of Patricia Gantes, it’s the property owner. According to Patricia Gantes, who owns a home that was contaminated by meth lab chemicals, the cost of decontaminating her property belongs to someone else.
(picture) The three-family apartment house located at 227 Bridge Street in Northampton, Masssachusetts is owned by Patricia Gantes (left). While cleaning out the second floor and attic of her home last month, she discovered what would be named the first meth lab in the state of Massachusetts for the year 2010.
The discovery of the meth lab in Gantes’ Northampton home, although the first in Massachusetts this year, is not the first that has ever been found in the Bay State. Last year a meth lab was discovered in Andover, MA. Yet, Massachusetts does not have meth lab clean up regulations or disclosure laws on the books.
According to news reports, on Monday, October 11th, Gantes and her friend, Sara Cunningham, discovered a stash of drug paraphernalia after a tenant moved out of the second floor of Gantes’ apartment home. Their discovery included things like hypodermic needles, spoons that were burnt on their backsides, and bottles full of liquids. Urine had been collected in some of the bottles. Some meth addicts are so desperate for meth that they will save their urine to get any residual meth that gets expelled from their bodies. Other bottles contained crystallized substances, whose toxic gases caused both women to vomit. Sick to their stomachs, news reports say, the women fled the attic and made their way back downstairs to Gantes’ apartment to make an emergency call to 911. Before they fully understood what was happening, officials took 227 Bridge Street in to custody surrounding it with yellow police tape and ordering all of its residents to evacuate the premises.
(picture) By Tuesday, October 12th, federal DEA agents joined local and state officials, who requested they help them identify and remove the chemicals from Patricia Gantes’ home. Trash bags on the lawn of Gantes’ house reportedly contained soda bottles that had chemical residues inside of them. Plastic bottles, like soda bottles, are frequently used by people who use the “shake and bake” method to cook small batches of meth.
Once officials removed all of the chemicals and drug-related items they found, ownership for decontaminating the property instantly fell on to Gantes’ shoulders. Massachusetts, like other U.S. states, hands the problem of decontaminating a property over to its owner. Whether or not you are responsible for making the meth that contaminated the property appears to be irrelevant to policy decision makers. The cost of decontaminating a meth lab home can add up quickly. If you’re lucky it costs a few thousand dollars, but most property owners find themselves having to pay clean up bills that are well over $10,000. The unluckiest owners of contaminated property face clean up cost that skyrocket to over $100,000. The cost of decontamination depends on the extent of the damage, the standards that a state makes a property owner adhere to, and meth lab clean up contractor fees. With a lot of luck, Gantes’ homeowner’s insurance policy will pay for the damage that’s been done to her property.
Who should pay for the clean up of Gantes’ home? Most might think the answer to that question is easy – the person who contaminated it. In theory, that’s the right answer. In realty, that solution simply doesn’t work. If the person who contaminates a home is in jail or doesn’t have the amount of money it takes to pay for the damage they’ve done, then what?
Has her puppy been sick for so long because of the chemical fumes that she and the mailman smelled near her home from time to time?
How toxic are the chemicals that still remain in her home and did they travel outside of the second floor apartment?
Officials have assured Gantes that the chemicals didn’t travel throughout the building, however others who have lived in rental houses where neighbors cooked meth might argue that point. Many people have reported feeling sick because of chemical fumes that emanated from a neighboring apartment.
According to news reports, October 11, 2010 was not the first time that police had visited Gantes’ home. In 2009, they arrested a man, who lived on the second floor of Gantes’ home, for stealing bottles of cold medicines (pseudoephedrine an ingredient found in common cold and allergy medicines is used to make meth) from local retailers. When questioned by police, he told them that he intended to sell it. He also had two hypodermic needles in his possession at the time of his arrest. (Some meth users inject meth, while others smoke it or snort it)
November 2010 -Police are now searching for four suspects who include Edmund Lawrence Bowen IV, 27, who lived in Gantes’ home between October 2009 and February 2010, and three other suspects whose ages range between 18 and 20. All four suspects bought an overabundance of pseudoephedrine products between September 2009 and May 2010, according to pharmacy record checks conducted by the police. Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in the meth manufacturing process.
A special agent from the DEA who investigated the meth lab in Gantes’ home, believes that meth cooks used the “one pot” or “shake and bake” method when they made meth in the attic. Besides packages of pseudoephedrine, the DEA identified muriatic acid, lithium batteries, cold packs, and bottles with residue inside of them, which are indicative of a meth manufacturing operation. While police believe Bowen cooked the meth, they do not think he acted alone. In fact, they believe that he may have taught three other individuals how to do it, who police now consider as suspects. While police did not name the individuals, news reports indicate that they range in age from 18 to 20 years old.
Manufacturing meth in Massachusetts can result in a prison sentence that can be 5 to 15 years in length and carry fines that range between $2,500 and $25,000. Conspiracy to manufacture meth results in a 10 year prison sentence and a maximum fine of $10,000.
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