department events

Meth Labs

Methamphetamine is made mostly from common household ingredients (drain cleaner, ephedrine, lye, brake cleaners, etc.) When these ingredients are mixed and "cooked" together they make a dangerous drug and potentially harmful chemical mixtures that can remain on household surfaces for months or years after "cooking" is over. There may be health effects in people exposed to lab chemicals before, during and after the drug-making process. Therefore, each drug lab is a potential hazardous waste site, requiring evaluation, and possibly cleanup, by hazardous waste (HazMat) professionals.  In addition to the dangers of active drug labs and possible harm caused by lab residues in uncleaned, former labs, meth use and manufacture is associated with:

  • increased crime, particularly property crimes, personal violence, child abuse and endangerment,
  • increased demand for medical and social services, including, foster- and short-term care, drug and
  • psychiatric treatment, and various public health services
  • increased demands on jails and jail services, fire department and law enforcement agencies,
  • and additional strain on educators, parents and communities

 The chemicals and fumes that permeate the wall, carpets, and furnishings of meth labs are known to cause cancer, organ damage, and other health effects; particularly to children. To help protect the public from exposure to contaminates of meth labs, Kandiyohi County has adopted a Clandestine Drug Lab Ordinance. The purpose of this ordinance is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. This is accomplished by establishing procedures for the assessment, remediation and cleanup of property used for meth labs. The ordinance requires cleanup by the property owners. The requirement of meth lab cleanups will prevent current or future residents of the property from being exposed to the toxic contaminants within.  Many property owners are not involved in the manufacturing of meth, unfortunately since they are the property owner they are still responsible for the cleanup of the meth lab. We assembled some tips for property owners to screen out “bad” tenants and to help prevent drug labs on your property.  Information related to property in Kandiyohi County that is or was previously, not preceding January 1, 2005, a meth lab.

Helpful contact information

     Chris Wenisch, Envivonmental Health Specialist
     Kandiyohi County Public Health
     (320)231-7860 ext 2535
Minnesota Detox, Drug Rehab and Alcohol Treatment Programs, Chemical Dependency Division (651) 582-1832   Within Minnesota 1-800-662-4357
Woodland Centers, Willmar, MN     (320) 235-4613
Cardinal Recovery, Willmar, MN     (320) 231-6600
Bradley Center, Willmar, MN     (320) 231-5330
Project Turnabout, Redwood Falls, MN  (507) 637-8783/1-800-862-1453
Saint Cloud Hospital Recovery Plus (320)255-5613 ext.53330/(320)255-5612

What is Meth?   Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant. Meth is found in the form of powder, chunks, pills, or capsules; and it can be smoked, snorted, injected, or administered orally. Other slang names for meth are crank, speed, crystal, and ice. Signs of meth use include dilated pupil, sweating, dry mouth, flushed skin and tremors. Meth users may also exhibit aggressive and psychotic behavior, irritability, anxiety, and paranoia.

Meth users aren’t the only people poisoned by this drug. Meth manufacturing is extremely dangerous and involves many common household chemicals. These chemicals are potentially lethal and toxic. When mixed, the household chemicals used in the manufacturing process can damage the central nervous system, liver and kidneys and burn or irritate the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. The chemicals and fumes that permeate the wall, carpets, plaster and wood in meth labs, as well as the surrounding soil, are known to cause cancer, short-term and permanent brain damage and respiratory system problems. Meth lab operations can result in explosions and fires that could injure and kill not only the operator but also innocent bystanders, neighbors, or law enforcement that come in contact with a lab. In addition to the dangers of meth labs, violence between drug dealers adds to the overall threat to neighborhood. The cooking process of meth leaves approximately six pounds of hazardous toxic waste for each pound of methamphetamine produced. Lab operators typically dump these chemicals down the drain or somewhere outdoors.

Costs to Society

  • Contaminated buildings, soil, and water from toxic by-products.
  • Increased federal, state, and local spending for additional law enforcement and social services.
  • Increased medical costs and emergency room use for meth users.
  • Death, injury, and illness resulting from meth use and the manufacturing of meth.

In addition to the crimes committed by making, selling, and using, meth, the drug contributes to domestic violence, child abuse, and automobile accidents.

How to Recognize a Meth Lab:  A typical meth lab is a collection of chemical bottles, glassware, hoses, ephedrine pills and propane tanks. The tanks contain anhydrous ammonia or hydrochloric acid. 

Common meth lab supplies:  Plastic tubing, mason jars, propane tanksc camp stove fuel, empty pill bottles, empty cans of alcohol, toluene, paint thinner, ammonia, starter fluid, glass containers, funnels, coffee filters with red stains, ephedrine tablets. 

Signs of living near a meth lab are
Strong odor of solvents, residents with windows blacked out, excessive trash
Extensive security at the home such as signs that indicate "Beware of Dog" or "Private Property"
Frequent visitors at odd hours or late at night
Evidence of chemical or waste dumping
Occupants appear secretive about activities and display paranoid or odd behavior
Meth lab supplies listed in this brochure are found around the yard or in the garbage
Renters pay their landlords in cash

If you Suspect a Meth Lab…  Do not enter a site that you think may be used for cooking meth! Labs present extreme dangers from explosions and exposure to hazardous chemicals. Never handle materials you suspect were used for making meth, such as contaminated glassware or needles. If you suspect a possible meth lab, contact either the Kandiyohi County Sheriff Department at 214-6700 or Willmar Police Department at 235-2244.

Preventing Drug Labs on Your Property Tips for Landlords.  Property owners are responsible for meth lab cleanup costs and 50% of drug labs are found on rental property.

What's the cost? When drug criminals operate out of rental property, owners pay a high price...
Loss of rent
Decline in property values
Damage of property
Civil penalties
Dangerous and threatening tenants
Resentful and angry neighbors
Loss of other valued tenants

By making small changes you can avoid big problems. Absentee landlords should have an agent, friend, or relative check the property on your behalf.  At the time of rental application...  
Application should be filled out completely
Conduct background checks
Rental history
Credit report
Employment history
Criminal background
Meet every adult and require picture identification
Be aware of renter's appearance and behaviors
Visit property often and be aware of lab indicators
     Blackened windows, drawn curtains
     Frequent visitors at all hours
Paranoid, odd behavior
Extensive security
Excessive garbage specific to meth manufacturing
Chemical odors

If you suspect a meth lab on your property contact:  Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office 320-214-6700 or the Willmar Police Department: 320-235-2244

As a added resource to landlords, a sample Rental Application can be downloaded for use

To know whether an applicant will be a good tenant or bad tenant, you need to be able to foresee the future. We know that is impossible, but there are steps that can be taken to increase your chances of renting to a good tenant.  Using a good screening process can reduce the odds of renting to bad tenants.

  • Be sure to ask why they are moving. If they fumble, stumble, or complain about their landlord, this may be a red flag.
  • Appearance, Attitude, & Manners. Is the prospect neat and clean? Did he or she make an attempt to make a good impression? In most cases, an unkempt person keeps an unkempt lifestyle and home.
  • ALWAYS have them complete a rental application.
  • When you take an application from a prospective tenant ask to see their driver’s license. Make sure the picture is the same person and that the address listed on the license is the same one they wrote on the application.
  •  ALWAYS call the people listed as their previous landlords.
  • Your lease agreement should state how many people will be occupying the unit.
  • A quality property will get you quality tenants. Don’t wait too long before you get around to fixing things.
  • Visit the property often. This will make you aware of any unwanted activities taking place on your property by the tenant. Also this shows your tenant that you care about the properties appearance and that you are making an effort to maintain the property in good condition, therefore the tenant will be more likely to follow suit. Knowing that the landlord frequently drops in on maintenance visits also will deter bad tenants from performing damaging activities to the property.