Meth labs are messy.
"The chemicals are so toxic, they permeate everything," said Lt. Vern Elliott with the Ingham County Sheriff's Department. "You're talking cleanup of the soil, clean up of the house, the dry wall has to be stripped down and removed all the way to the studs. It's very expensive and time consuming to make these properties livable again."
That's why up until recently when the Ingham County sheriff's department found a meth lab, they could call the DEA and get the site cleaned up.
But that all changed a little more than three weeks ago. Nearly $20 million dollars of federal funding devoted to helping police departments across the country clean up meth labs ran out. That left local law enforcement across Michigan the responsibility of finding a way to pay for the estimated $1.1 million dollar annual cost of cleanup in the state.
Individual sites can cost thousands or as much as $10,000 to clean up.
"It puts an even bigger strain on us when we're short funds already," said Lt. Elliott. "It's going to make it that much more difficult, being reactive instead of proactive, and then trying to find the funding to clean up whatever we do come across."
And the Ingham County Sheriff's Department doesn't budget these costs in because cleanups have been paid for in the past with federal funds. So who foots the bill?
"There's money available from the health department, other areas of the county that we'd have to draw from," said Lt. Elliott. "We'll be going after a lot of landowners and property owners through tax leins to help offset the cost of the cleanup."
But Lt. Elliott says, at least in Ingham County, if a mobile meth lab or chemicals are dumped on an owner's property through no fault of their own, the owner won't have to pay the costs of cleanup.