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DHS news release

March 9, 2004

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180
Technical Contact: Tom Mitchell (503) 731-4012

Neighbors of drug lab properties to be notified

Beginning today, the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) will begin notifying surrounding residents when an illegal drug lab is busted in their neighborhood.

"People who live near these sites deserve to know that their neighborhood contains a potential health hazard," said Gail Shibley, manager of environmental health programs in DHS. "We are especially concerned about protecting children."

Shibley said that most of the properties are located in residential areas and most have been used to manufacture toxic methamphetamines. The notification requirement was authorized by the 2003 Legislature.

"During methamphetamine manufacturing, dangerous chemicals are released and can collect on walls and surfaces," Shibley said. "Although we are rigorous about the proper clean-up of these properties, until they are certified as safe, people and their pets should stay away from them."

DHS operates the clandestine drug lab cleanup program, overseeing the cleanup of illegal drug labs and licensing decontamination contractors and workers. Only after a property has been cleaned and certified as "fit for use" by DHS can it be entered or re-occupied.

Last year, Rep. Jackie Dingfelder of Portland introduced HB 3259, which required written notice of the existence of former illegal drug labs be given to citizens. As a result, letters will be sent to all residents who live within 300 feet of a drug lab in urban settings, and residents who live within one-fourth mile of one in rural settings.

The letters will include the address of the drug lab and an informational brochure.

Since the program began in the late 1980s the number of illegal drug houses has grown steadily, from 20 per year to more than 200 in 2003. The sites exist in all areas of the state, according to Shibley.

Information about the Drug Lab Cleanup Program is available on the Web.

A current list of contaminated drug lab properties, that are not yet cleaned up, is available on the Oregon Building Codes Division Web site under "Public Notices."