Meth Lab Discharges
While various states have issued regulations on the decontamination of meth labs, the health and safety of workers still comes under the purview of OSHA. This can either be U.S. OSHA or an OSHA Plan State. As you can see from the narrative below, a clandestine meth lab can be an extremely hazardous place to work. RCRA training is also required for individuals handing hazardous waste and toxic substances.
Odors emanating from materials or household systems (e.g., plumbing, HVAC) in former meth labs may indicate contamination. When in doubt about the source, owners should take precautions to protect occupant and/or worker safety and health. Because meth chemicals are frequently poured down the drain during active cooking, concentrations of these chemicals may remain in the traps of sinks and other drains. As a result, plumbing in structures may be compromised and require attention during remediation. Furthermore, plumbing connections and outfalls for wastewater and/or gray water should be verified. Because VOCs are often corrosive or flammable, test plumbing for these chemicals during pre-remediation sampling using a photoionization detector (PID). When remediation of plumbing fixtures begins, all plumbing traps should be flushed. If wastewater from detergent-water washing is disposed of down drains within the structure, the system should be flushed again after remediation. Visibly contaminated (etched or stained) sinks, bathtubs and toilets should be removed and properly disposed of as they are difficult to clean. Porcelain and stainless steel, unless pitted or damaged, may be cleaned in the same manner as other hard, non-porous surfaces. When staining is noted around sinks, toilets or tubs, or if a strong chemical odor is coming from household plumbing, the plumbing system should be flushed with generous amounts of water to reduce the concentration of residual chemicals.
Generally, meth lab waste chemicals discarded in sewer systems are flushed from the system within minutes or hours of disposal. However, chemicals may remain in the system longer if connections are on a line of very low flow. During the preliminary assessment, it should be noted if the flow in the line is low. Large volumes of meth lab wastes can pose a problem if they are flushed and end up in on-site septic systems or in privately-owned wastewater treatment systems or those shared by small communities (e.g., trailer parks, apartment complexes). If there is evidence that meth lab wastes may have been disposed of into the septic system or privately-owned system, field screening of the septic tank or privately-owned system should be performed by an industrial hygienist, cleanup contractor or other qualified person. VOCs and/or a pH that is too high or too low may indicate the presence of hazardous waste from the production process. Because some cleaning agents kill the flora of a septic system, it is not recommended that wastewater be disposed of in a septic system. Evidence of waste disposal may include, but is not limited to: witness statements; etched or stained sinks, bathtubs or toilets; chemical odors coming from plumbing or septic tank; visual observations of unusual conditions within the tank (dead tank); or stressed or dead vegetation in the leach field. Systems generally should not be pumped if they contain only VOCs. However, if the leach field is not functioning due to wastes previously sent to the system, pumping may be necessary. Monitoring for VOCs will determine the proper course of action, and disposal of contaminated material should comply with federal, state and local disposal requirements. Wastewater sampling from septic tanks may be appropriate in order to characterize waste while using methods that minimize VOC losses. Field screening of septic systems should include pH testing which may provide an indication of potential issues with the leach field.