Administrator Lisa Jackson
Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator Jackson,
As President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), I am writing to you about an issue of grave concern to law enforcement agencies throughout the United States: the cleanup of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories. The IACP is the world’s oldest and largest nonprofit membership organization of police executives, with more than 21,000 members in more than 100 different countries. The IACP's leadership consists of the operating chief executives of international, federal, state, and local agencies of all sizes.
As you may know, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently informed state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies that funding to assist in the cleanup of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories has been exhausted, and there is no expectation of additional funding. Because of this, states and localities are using their very limited resources to clean up these labs. Unfortunately, this effort cannot be sustained. Most states and localities are facing severe budget cuts and simply do not have the resources to continue cleanup without federal assistance. The average cost for basic cleanup of labs is $4,000 and can be as high as $20,000 for larger labs.
Tragically, this development comes at a time when the number of clandestine labs in the United States has risen dramatically. For instance, in my home state of Virginia, where most of the law enforcement agencies are small to midsized, we have tripled the number of responses to lab cleanup during the previous three years. In 2008, there were 19 responses; in 2009, 28 responses; and in 2010, 107 responses. The national numbers reflect this trend as well.
According to the DEA, state, local and tribal agencies seized 3,636 meth labs in 2008; 5,513 in 2009; and 6,294 in 2010. Even though these numbers are alarming, it is important to note that they do not represent a complete picture of the meth lab problem. Sadly, many state and local law enforcement agencies simply do not have the staff resources to report meth lab seizures. Even more troubling, there are many other labs that are unknown to law enforcement.
But perhaps the most disturbing is the number of children, all innocent victims, who are injured by living in or around meth labs. In 2010, 1,647 children were injured due to their proximity to a meth lab.
The harsh reality is that meth labs continue to be a critical problem in this country and state, local and tribal law enforcement simply cannot sustain current clean up initiatives. Up until FY 2010, Congress appropriated funding for state, local and tribal clandestine lab cleanups under the Community Oriented Policing Services program (COPS). In FY 2010, the COPS office was authorized to transfer $10 million to the DEA to continue to administer the program; however, this level of funding was not adequate to address the increasing demands on the program.
While we know that the DEA, along with other federal agencies, are working diligently to find other sources of emergency funding, we are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to do the same. Meth lab clean up is a community, child, and officer safety issue, but more than anything, it is an environmental issue.
When labs are discovered, suspects are not the only ones who are evacuated—oftentimes, in motels and apartment buildings for instance, many residents have to vacate their homes until the labs can be cleaned. And even when the labs are cleaned, there is a strong question as to whether the residence will ever be truly inhabitable. For example, we know that there have been cases where families have unwittingly moved into houses where meth labs formerly resided and their children have become seriously ill from the toxins still in the house walls.
The IACP is committed to working with federal agencies, Congress, and our other law enforcement partners to find a successful long-term solution to this critical problem. In the meantime, I respectfully request that the EPA pursue additional sources of emergency funding to assist state, local and tribal law enforcement in the cleanup of these dangerous labs. I also ask the EPA to work with the law enforcement community to find a more permanent solution to this grave problem. Labs represent a serious environmental and public health issue, and state, local and tribal law enforcement must have the assistance of the federal government.
The IACP stands ready to assist you in any way necessary. Please feel free to contact Meredith Ward in IACP’s legislative affairs office at any time. Mrs. Ward may be reached at 703-647- 7226 or WardM@TheIACP.org.
Thank you for your consideration.
Mark A. Marshall