Cleaning up a former meth lab

Cleaning up a former meth lab

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by Jamie Grey

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBJamieGrey

KTVB.COM

Posted on April 29, 2012 at 10:07 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 30 at 3:55 PM

Earlier this year, the 7 Investigation team knocked on the doors of several Treasure Valley homes on a meth property list where, legally, no one is supposed to live until they are properly cleaned.

We found people living in some. Others were unoccupied, like the apartment in this story. Over the past few months, KTVB followed the owner's costly quest to get off the list of homes that are made unlivable because of former meth labs.
   
It's a little yellow apartment building, right on a main street in Nampa's northside. A little yellow apartment building, marked with a bright yellow warning sign.

"I left that on there because I wanted everybody to know, ‘Hey, if you're coming in, this is dangerous stuff.  It could be bad,’" said homeowner Debbie Johnson.

Johnson bought the apartment building in 2004 as a real estate investment. She hoped it would be a bright spot in a rough part of town.

"I thought, yeah, this just needs clean up and paint,” Johnson said. “So I thought." 

One of her tenants was busted for meth last summer.

"He did his cooking right back here,” Johnson said, indicating one part of the house. “He put his chemicals in Coke bottles, and there were toddlers around.  Can you imagine?"

Now, she's dealing with a building she can't rent out, because of something she knew nothing about.

'I don't even know how to smoke a cigarette!" Johnson said.  But instead of throwing in the towel, Johnson decided to push through and get off the do-not-occupy list.

On one March day, Johnson had a professional duct cleaner in. This, after she scrubbed, repainted and pulled up the carpet.

The company cleaned out the vents, which could be spreading meth residue.

Then, later that month, what was dubbed "the final wipe down," scrubbing the whole building, top to bottom and left to right. Her church, the Christian Faith Center North Campus, volunteered to help.

"I couldn't do this,” Johnson said. “I'm just a single person.  I couldn't get this all cleaned up."

The church's leader has a special -- and unexpected -- connection to this neighborhood.

"This was one of my main spots. I was a drug dealer on the northside here," Pastor Jordan Hodges said. “When I was 18 years old actually, I had a grand jury indictment for selling meth here in Nampa that I was prosecuted for and went to prison for.”

The former dealer- turned-pastor and his church members are determined to get Johnson's house off the list. Not only that, they want to turn it into something for the community - a place where the church can keep donations to give to community members in need.

"I think big change starts with little steps,” Hodges said. “You know, one thing at a time."

From a little yellow apartment marked with meth by a bright yellow sign, to a little yellow apartment marked with hope by a bright -- and clean -- future.

"When I first walked in, there was just kind of a thought that birthed inside me and that thought was 'from a dope house, to a hope house,’" Hodges said.

But to get to that hope house, this process needs to end with no dope.

'I mean, just a trace amount and you can't get off the list,” Johnson said. “So, hoping I did it right.  We'll find out.  But yes, I'm nervous!"

Idaho's law says homeowners can do the clean-up themselves. 

Even using mostly volunteer labor and a carefully budgeted plan, Johnson has personally spent $3,000 or $4,000 and will pay almost a $1,000 more for certified testing. 

We're still waiting to hear what her results are.

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