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May 13, 2012

Meth messing up Cass County

New methods make it easier to make drug, more labs turning up

LOGANSPORT — It’s addictive, smelly and hazardous, but it also leaves a big mess.

Often discovered in abandoned homes, methamphetamine labs can cause major headaches for property owners when they are faced with structural or land contamination. However, an emerging meth cleanup industry and a new state law aim to ease the burden.

The spring brings with it warm weather, but also an increase in the labs, according to the Indiana State Police. Cass County is no exception.

“We have found them everywhere,” said trooper Josh Maller of ISP’s meth suppression unit. “The woods, abandoned homes — it just depends on where the individual cook is at.”

Robert McLaughlin, Cass County Health Department director of environmental health, estimates that more than half of the buildings associated with meth production are condemned. Last year, 12 meth labs were seized in Cass County.

The health department sends the property owner a letter to comply after a lab is seized, and the owner is given 30 days to clean and decontaminate it. If the charged meth cook owns the property, a letter is sent to the jail.

McLaughlin said the burden is often placed on landlords, since many meth lab operations are conducted on rental property. The problem can also frustrate farmers when labs are found in remote areas.

New bill to help?

The financial hurdles associated with pollution and the ensuing cleanup led to the writing of House Enrolled Act 1091. State Reps.

Bill Friend, R-Macy, and Don Lehe, R-Brookston, co-authored the bill.

The bill, which will go into  effect July 1, aimed to protect farmers against nuisance lawsuits.

But it also contains a provision that will require drug manufacturers to  pay damages to farmers on whose land they illegally operate.

Meth cooks will have to pay $10,000, while those who grow marijuana will pay $2,000.

Friend and Lehe introduced the bill after hearing complaints in their mostly rural districts. The Indiana Farm Bureau and Indiana Pork Producers Association were particularly concerned about the problem.

The fees will be mandatory, eliminating the need for a lawsuit and attorney, Lehe said.

“Under current law, there is no requirement (for paying damages),” Lehe  said. “There are a lot of things involved in the process. It’s not always  something people pursue.”

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