ELKRIDGE, Md. - Police say methamphetamines have never really been Maryland's problem. But with a potential bust like the suspected one in Elkridge, it becomes everyone's problem if it's not cleaned up the right way.
For guests at the Elkridge Holiday Inn Express, the idea of a possible meth lab inside the hotel may come as a shock. But for experts used to tracking these labs, the location is no surprise. Sergeant Dave Keller with Maryland State Police says, "They can make it anywhere. They make it in homes, sheds, detached garages, hotel rooms. It doesn't really matter."
Methamphetamines, according to Keller, are dangerous to make, but not difficult. Although Keller says you won't find many cooks here, "Meth has never really taken that foothold in this state. The drug of choice for many years in Maryland has been heroin and marijuana. They're the drug of choice."
But over the years, a few have chosen to make meth in Maryland. Between 2004 and 2011, State police say they discovered at least 13 labs. So far this year, another four have been busted, mostly in western Maryland.
In these case, the meth cooks get removed, but the impact of the drug they made lingers, with fumes and chemicals potentially clinging to the walls and floors. Lieutenant Mark Rodeheaver, formerly with a meth task force within Maryland State Police, says, "We do not as law enforcement, go into these houses and tear up carpet or wallboard."
So if the cops don't clean up, who does? That may be the messiest question when it comes to meth labs. Although certain certified companies are recommended by the DEA and state agencies, police say Maryland has no official standard for making sure former meth labs are made safe to live in. And neither does the United States government. Rusty Payne, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, explains, "That's a huge problem. There's no federal standard right now, no U.S. law or standard for remediation of a meth lab."
That means it's possible meth by-products can stick around if not properly cleaned, no matter whether it's made in a house or a hotel. Payne says, "There could be damage left behind that a hotel maid isn't going to be able to catch, if you will, so I'm at risk, my family's at risk, my children are at risk."
A professional cleaning company was spotted outside the Holiday Inn following the bust Monday night. As state law stands at the moment, the person who made the meth is considered responsible for paying to clean up the mess once they're charged and convicted.
Maryland has no disclosure laws about meth operations, even if you're buying a house that was previously used as a lab.