Former meth labs a nightmare for unwitting homebuyers - KMSP-TV

Former meth labs a nightmare for unwitting homebuyers

Source: FOX News

SUQUAMISH, Wash. -- Soon after the Bates family moved into their first home, the euphoria of realizing the American Dream gave way to a nightmare of foul odors, unexplained illnesses and spiraling costs.

John Bates, a navy veteran and pipe fitter, and wife Jessica moved into their 2-acre lot for $235,000 with their then-7-year-old son, Tyler, in March 2007.

But soon after, the boy developed breathing problems, John Bates became "perpetually sick" and Jessie Bates developed strange skin rashes. It was a mystery until a year and a half later, when a neighbor casually mentioned what the previous occupant did for a living.

The Bates family was living in a former meth lab, soaked to the studs with dangerous chemicals. When Bates tore up walls and flooring, their worst fears were confirmed.

"That's when we found the iodine-like staining on the walls and human feces under the floor," Jessie Bates told

There was no meth lab disclosure law in Washington in 2008, when the Bates' bought their home. Faced with an estimate of $90,000 for repairs, they instead chose to demolish the house and build a new home, for $184,000.

More than two years after rebuilding on the property, she says the family has put the meth nightmare behind them. Tyler, now 11, is healthy and getting good grades.

"But really, we were very, very lucky," she said. "We know that we're the exception."

Abandoned labs and a patchwork of local and state regulations on how those properties are decontaminated and then resold has created a "nationwide issue," DEA spokeswoman Dawn Dearden told

"Some of the byproducts of meth labs can be extraordinarily toxic and explosive," Dearden said. Highly toxic substances are poured down the drain or into the yard and create a hazardous environment she explained.

Joe Mazzuca, operations manager for the Idaho-based Meth Lab Cleanup told FOX he gets "like 60 alerts a day, whether it's a shake-and-bake operation in Missouri or a giant meth lab in Mexico."

Roughly half of the country -- including perennial hotspots like Kentucky and Arkansas -- has disclosure laws now on the books, as well as stringent regulations for remediation of former meth labs, but a lack of oversight in those remaining states is troublesome.

Mazzuca advises potential homebuyers to do their homework before purchasing a property, especially if it is been subject to foreclosure or is a bank-owned property east of the Rockies.

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