BOISE -- Following a 7 Investigates report last year looking at Idaho's contaminated meth lab properties law, KTVB asked for more records. The records revealed an issue with the amount of time it's taken agencies to notify the public that a property shouldn't be occupied.
The Clandestine Drug Laboratory Cleanup Act was passed in Idaho in 2005. Its purpose was to establish guidelines for keeping potential homebuyers, renters and owners safe by publishing a list of contaminated properties and requiring them to clean-up to get off the list. If listed, the home must be unoccupied.
New records show health officials, public not being notified within legal timeframe
By law, within 72 hours of a meth lab bust in a house, apartment, or mobile home, the agency with jurisdiction over the lab is supposed to report it to the state get it on a contaminated properties list.
"When I get that notification, then I put it online so that the public can be aware of where the meth lab is, and realtors, the public, whoever needs to know," said Jim Faust, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Idaho Indoor Environment Program Manager.
KTVB obtained all of the police reports for the 42 homes currently on the contaminated homes list. After going through each handwritten report and comparing incident dates with the dates police reports were actually faxed to the state, KTVB could only confirm three of the 42 were definitely filed within the 72 hour timeframe.
More commonly, we found examples where city, county and state agencies around the state took dozens, or even hundreds of days to file.
Homes only publicly listed once police send in the form
For a while, meth-contaminated houses weren't being listed until the police told the state. In one Idaho Falls case, we found that the police took 728 days to notify Faust, so it was another couple days before it was listed.
More recently, the state has another way to find out about meth labs, and Faust now contacts police if the form doesn't come in 72 hours.
He now gets alerted when a hazmat crew comes out. He then asks police for the report, though it can still take a while to get the report and list the house. For example, in 2012, a Nampa home wasn't reported to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare by authorities for 212 days. The property went unlisted from April to November. Nampa Police says the Drug Enforcement Agency files its reports.
"Sometimes we have to push a little bit. We have to make repeated calls," Faust said. "It's because they're very busy, and they don't work with labs every week on a weekly basis, or even a monthly basis, many times not even a yearly basis, so sometimes it takes several phone calls to get the report."
Police, health officials say they've adapted and reporting is getting better
The fact that police are dealing with home meth labs on a less than regular basis gives a lack of data to report any recent trend. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare happily reports that there was only one lab bust in a home this year.
Some departments have made adjustments since the law went into effect. Boise Police for example say their narcotics unit knows about the requirement and now has one officer tasked with the notification.
The officers who sent late reports for Boise back in 2007 and 2009 don't work in Boise anymore, so we couldn't find out why the reports were late.