A clean-up is underway at the Juneau home where police found multiple “one-pot” methamphetamine labs in December, a find that led to the arrests of the couple residing there.
Traces of meth contamination were detected in the duplex at 4483 Kanata Street, and the property has since been branded as an “illegal drug manufacturing site” by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
The Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority, which owns and manages the property, say they’ve made it a top priority to get contamination down to levels approved by the DEC.
“It is our first priority to make certain our tenants are in safe housing,” President and CEO of the Housing Authority Ricardo Worl said.
Testing showed the contamination is contained to the interior of the one unit in the duplex and its boiler room, posing no danger to adjacent properties or neighbors, according to Housing Authority Housing Manager Anne Weske. Testing was conducted by Carson Dorn Inc., an environmental engineering firm in Juneau.
No one is allowed to move into the unit until it meets the DEC’s standards, which is 0.1 micrograms (µg) of methamphetamine per 100 centimeters squared, according to Scot Tiernan, the DEC’s on-scene coordinator for oil spills and hazardous responses for Southeast Alaska. That’s the lowest level that could be detected at the time the regulations were put in place, he said.
Forty-four µg’s was detected in the Kanata Street unit’s boiler room, where they suspect the meth was being manufactured, Weske said. Inside the unit, Weske says testing is consistent with methamphetamine being smoked inside the house. She said testing showed 0.25 µg on a sample taken from a bedroom wall; 3.3 µg on a sample from a light switch plate; and 0.38 µg on a sample taken near a heater where the wall had discoloration.
The testing samples were sent to ALS Environmental Laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the results came back last month, Weske said. The contamination tests cost $4,500.
No levels of meth were detected in the adjoining unit in the duplex since the two units have separate air handling systems, Weske said. The tenant in that unit is still currently residing there since it was deemed safe, Weske said.
A maintenance crew with coveralls and breathing masks began cleaning the contaminated unit on Monday, stripping it down to a “skeleton state” by removing all fixtures, carpets, light switches, outlet covers and the paint on the walls. The cleaning is anticipated to be complete this month, an effort that will cost somewhere between $12,000 and $15,000, the Housing Authority said.
At that point, more tests will be conducted by Carson Dorn, and once safe levels are reached, the Housing Authority will submit those results to the DEC. The unit will be also listed on the DEC website as an illegal drug manufacturing site for the next five years, as required by state statutes.
The Housing Authority owns several properties in the area of Kanata Street, which is off of Mendenhall Loop Road in the Mendenhall Valley. Weske said the neighborhood is a mix of privately owned properties and low-income housing. The Kanata Street duplex is listed as a low-income housing unit.
The Housing Authority manages about 700 homes in 16 different communities in the region. Some of their properties are Native-only housing. Others are market rate, low rent and transitional housing.
Alaska State Troopers announced in December they discovered the one-pot meth labs while executing a search warrant at the duplex. “One-pot” means that the chemical reaction is confined within one pot, usually a plastic soda bottle.
The warrant was executed by the Alaska Bureau of Investigations’ Southeast Alaska Cities Against Drugs (SEACAD) task force, with assistance from the Juneau Police Department’s Drug Enforcement Unit, the FBI and Alaska Wildlife Troopers.
Tenants Jennifer T. Hartsock, 36, and Benjamin James Parson, 36, were arrested and later indicted by a Juneau grand jury on multiple felony drug charges. They are tentatively scheduled to go to trial in April.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at email@example.com.
Editor’s Note: The Empire had incorrectly reported in a previous version of this report that the tenant living in the adjacent unit of the duplex is related to the couple who were arrested, based on misinformation from the Housing Authority. They are not related.