THREE public housing homes in Wodonga have required decontamination in the past year due to meth lab chemical concerns.
The Department of Health and Human Services hired contractors to rectify issues with two properties in Trudewind Road following clan lab raids.
A third property also had to be decontaminated.
Images from a brick home on the corner of Trudewind Road and Muir Court show the former drug den has been extensively stripped.
Plaster has been ripped out and it appears the kitchen has also been removed.
One offender was seen shaking at the property, and appeared to have a yellow complexion, when he was arrested at the house.
The home is due to be auctioned on Saturday and is listed as an “opportunity to enter the market”.
The home has been re-tenanted following work by contractors working on behalf of the housing department.
Under national guidelines, home owners have a responsibility to fix methamphetamine contamination, with local governments enforcing penalties.
Homes are deemed uninhabitable, with people banned from entering until the contamination is fixed.
A meth lab is probably the worst case scenario you can get in terms of toxicity, just from the manufacturing processMeth Screen chief executive Ryan Matthews
Housing authorities have to fix contamination found in public properties.
A DHHS spokeswoman said extensive work can be required to ensure the homes were safe to live in.
“Depending on the level of contamination, works can include replacing white goods, removal and appropriate disposal of any biohazard material, flushing of drains, cleaning any ventilation systems (and) removal and replacement of items such as carpets and plasterboard,” the spokeswoman said.
“Properties are always tested and validated as being clear to be re-tenanted.”
Advice from the Environment Protection Authority notes labs can have corrosive chemicals including hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide and ammonia, and solvents including ethyl ether, benzene and toluene.
Chief executive of Melbourne based company Meth Screen, Ryan Matthews, said clandestine methamphetamine labs operating in homes were a “worst case scenario” for contamination.
The business tests properties for ice residue and Mr Matthews said even small amounts of use inside homes could leave a trace.
He estimated meth had been used in about 15 per cent of regional homes, most of which went unnoticed.
“A meth lab is probably the worst case scenario you can get in terms of toxicity, just from the manufacturing process,” he said.
“The process that turns the drug into a crystal is essentially evaporating a lot of liquid.
“That's what creates all the vapour and that vapour is essentially toxic meth residue.
"That's what makes people sick.
“After a property has been used for manufacturing it leaves that residue behind, and that needs to be remedied correctly and cleaned.”
Mr Matthews said homes with high levels of residue needed extensive work, and were often "stripped out”, including the removal of plaster from the walls and soft furnishings like carpet and curtains.
The removed products needed to be discarded and were considered to be contaminated waste.
Homes with lower readings need extensive cleaning using a chemical wash and scrubbing.
The business tests homes and takes readings from individual rooms.
He said clan labs were only a small part of the problem, with vastly more ice users than cooks.
“There would be thousands of properties (in the North East) that would be unsafe from people just using drugs over a prolonged time,” he said.
“That's really the problem in Australia.
"There are so many users smoking ice.”
Those living in meth homes can experience insomnia, symptoms similar to ADHD, migraines and memory problems, Mr Matthews said, with children particularly at risk.
National guidelines note residual contamination from meth labs presents “‘a serious risk of harm to human and environmental health”.
“Some residues can remain on surfaces for long periods of time,” the EPA notes, with no safe level of exposure.
The state government is considering enacting new laws which would require real estate agents to disclose when homes have been used for crimes like drug manufacturing.
Crime statistics show there were six drug cultivation or manufacturing offences recorded in Wodonga in the 12 months to March, up from five recorded offences in the prior year.
Nearly 200 drug use and possession offences were recorded in the same period.
Police detected seven cultivation and manufacturing offences in Wangaratta and 160 use and possession offences.
Mr Matthews said many people wouldn’t realise their homes were contaminated, as drug use often didn’t leave a smell or any visible signs.
“It’s quite a widespread problem,” he said.