Drug production in homes can have long-lasting health impacts.
Drug production in homes can have long-lasting health impacts.

Rocky drug houses to be declared a ‘public health risk’

PROPERTIES with suspected clandestine drug laboratories are now to be declared a public health risk.

Although police remove the chemicals, equipment, weapons and other associated hazards, there are a number of health risks still evident in properties.

The changes to the public health regulation 2018 were presented at the Rockhampton Regional Council planning and regulatory committee on Tuesday.

The implementation of the documents would significantly change the way council deals with notifications from police about properties with suspected clandestine drug laboratories.

Previously RRC has taken no action when notification from police was received as there was uncertainty around what constituted a public health risk.

Through the changes, councils are encouraged to issue a public health order to the homeowner and occupier.

This is applicable to all local government councils.

A local government health risk exists if a dangerous drug has or may have been unlawfully produced at a place or if a police have seized from the place a chemical or equipment that has or may have been used to unlawfully produce a dangerous drug.

Recent research has revealed there is health risks for persons living in properties used to produce illicit substances. Exposure may include symptoms of throat irritation, breathing difficulties, headaches, skin conditions and mental health problems which are mainly related to long term effects.

These risks continue to exist after the drug production equipment and hazardous chemicals have been removed.

The hazardous chemical may absorb into floor materials, walls, drains and ductings, furnishings and fittings and may be slowly released over an extended time. The risks are more susceptible to children.

Contamination levels vary on the extent, duration of manufacture, types of surface and site construction.

The proposed method of assessment and action by council is as follows:

1. Receipt of a notification from QPS of a clandestine laboratory in the council area.

2. Environmental health officers issue a Public Health Order to the owner (and

occupant if required) to engage an assessor who will undertake monitoring and sampling program and provide council with a Remediation Action Plan.

3. The property is remediated in accordance with the Remediation Action Plan.

4. The assessor undertakes post remediation sampling to confirm that the property has been successfully remediated.

5. Clearance report provided to council.

6. Property released from Public Health Order.

The cost of enforcement can be met through council's current operational budget.

The cost of clean-up is the responsibility of the landowner.

If the landowner doesn't comply, council can undertake the work and apply it to their rates.

Police data indicates most clandestine drugs labs are in rental properties.

Landowners may be able to make an insurance claim for the cost of the clean-up and/or undertake a civil claim against the tenant or other responsible person.

Queensland housing commission properties will be dealt with at state level.

The cleaning options include washing, vacuuming, encapsulation and removal or demolition.

Most semi/non-porous surfaces can be decontimated by washing with soap and water three times using bleach and detergent.

It is noted in the RRC report, two suspected properties were reported in each year in 2018 and 2019.

It was discussed at the council meeting properties with suspected drug labs should be added to the standard search for someone to buy a property.