Kirk Flippin has seen some pretty sad situations in his line of work.
Flippin is the owner of Texas Decon Environmental Services, a New Braunfels-based waste cleanup company that addresses methamphetamine lab cleanup as one of its specialties. He once stood in front of a house in Grapevine, Texas, and threw out a little girl’s toys, clothes, and dolls while she watched, heartbroken.
The family had unwittingly purchased a house used as a meth lab by a former owner and the girl’s possessions were contaminated by toxic residue.
It’s not the only time Flippin has found himself in that sort of position: “I have thrown away all of a family’s personal belongings because they were contaminated,” he said.
Between 2004 and 2012, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reported 2,349 meth “incidents” in Texas, including labs, dumpsites, or chemical and glassware seizures, and that’s just those discovered by law enforcement. But meth lab cleanup is not big business for Flippin in Texas because there are no laws in place requiring homeowners to clean their house if it has been used as a meth lab.
“When you go to sell a house, on the real estate disclosure form, there’s a question about if it has been used for production of methamphetamines—the homeowner is supposed to tell you,” he said. “But if the house is foreclosed and owned by a bank, the bank does not have to tell you, and a mortgage company does not have to tell you, even if they know. And if the homeowner is the person cooking the meth, they’re not likely to tell you [on the disclosure form].”
This can be a massive problem for unsuspecting homeowners, and can result in big health problems, decreased property values, and tens of thousands of dollars in expenses to take care the toxic mess.
Two years ago, Flippin spoke to lawmakers in Austin about implementing legislation, but nothing happened.
“It can’t be so difficult because 27 other states have regulations in place and we could just copy what they do, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t draw much attention,” he said. “The innocent people, the homeowners, they become the victims. They can’t even live in their house unless they spend a whole lot of money.”