Federal dollars meant to restore toxic areas like old factories, mines and gas stations are now going to clean up after another long-time industry: methamphetamine.
For the first time, the EPA’s brownfields program is covering the clean-up of former meth houses, and the inaugural sites are right here in the Northwest.
It’s sometimes called "third-hand exposure." Toxic residue from meth production and use can permeate drywall and carpet and linger on countertops and in ventilation systems.
That’s what the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Housing Authority discovered in some of its public housing.
The north Idaho tribe just received a $200,000 grant to gut six tribe-owned homes.
"A number of them were just party homes," said Heather Keen, spokeswoman for the tribe. "And the level of cleanup that will need to be done so that they’re safe to inhabit was just more than the Tribal Housing Authority was financially prepared for."
The EPA also gave the Tacoma Housing Authority $600,000 dollars to test and clean out some of its publicly owned family housing.
This is the first time these grants have covered meth since Congress expanded the definition of brownfields in 2002 to include drug contamination.
The EPA’s brownfields program is aimed at making contaminated sites useable again. These have historically been commercial and industrial sites. Communities often apply for grants to clean up former gas stations, mechanic’s shops, dry cleaners, salvage yards, factories, logging mills and grocery stores.
Exposure to meth residue is associated with numerous health problems, especially in children. Problems include neurological damage, asthma, respiratory illness and - when women are exposed during pregnancy - birth defects.