Multiple Libraries Shut Down Due To Meth Contamination

Two libraries in Colorado have shut down due to methamphetamines being detected in the air.

By Kari Apted | Published

meth contamination

Officials in Englewood, Colorado have closed the city’s library for the second time in as many months due to methamphetamine, or meth contamination. The drug is a highly addictive stimulant that’s taken in several different ways, including smoking, snorting, and injection. Drug use is not common at the Englewood Public Library, but a recent influx of homeless people using the building as a shelter has caused the recent concerns.

Englewood officials closed the library last week a few hours after receiving test results that showed the contamination in the restrooms exceeded state thresholds for meth. City spokesman Chris Harguth said the city decided to test for the drug after the nearby town of Boulder closed its main library due to meth contamination. In both cases, library staff had repeatedly reported suspicions of homeless people using drugs in the facilities’ restrooms.

Joseph Mazzuca is the operations manager for Meth Lab Cleanup Company, a certified meth cleanup contractor in the state of Colorado and 41 other states. He said that the cleanup of public facilities like libraries is usually a lengthy and extensive process. Removing the meth contamination will require removing all contaminated surfaces, including walls, HVAC ducts, and exhaust fan equipment.

“In the state of Colorado, the regulations are very strict where our objective is to physically remove the methamphetamine contamination from the surfaces and reduce it down to the acceptable levels. That’s our objective,” Mazzuca said. “That’s very difficult to do with methamphetamine. Very difficult.”  Mazzuca could not share the specific methods they use to remove meth contamination because it’s a company secret.

Mazzuca also said the two Colorado libraries closed for meth contamination are a microcosm of the extent of meth addiction in the United States. Boulder County reported a dramatic surge in the number of meth-contaminated properties in the county over the past six years. However, they also said in the report that secondhand meth exposure does not present significant health risks to the general population.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, researchers are unsure whether secondhand meth smoke can get people high or cause health effects. But they do know that people who are exposed to secondhand smoke can test positive for the drug afterward. The risk is highest for certain people, as explained by Boulder County health officials in a letter.

“There is no clear scientific standard for identifying an unhealthy level of secondary meth exposure. Research does show, however, that health risks are more significant after prolonged exposure to high levels of contamination, especially for infants, young children, and people with existing health conditions,” the letter stated. Because meth is metabolized quickly, the overall risk from short-term meth contamination exposure is low.

Colorado has some of the strictest laws concerning cleanup after meth contamination. State regulations have set a limit of 0.1 micrograms, and any property testing above that amount must perform extensive decontamination efforts. It’s unclear what the meth level was at the Englewood Public Library.

Englewood, a suburb of Denver with about 33,000 residents, is an example of the conflict urban libraries are experiencing now. They want to be welcoming to all, but they also need to keep the buildings safe and free from meth contamination. A similar situation occurred in the mid-2010s, when the opioid crisis was at its peak and urban libraries were keeping Narcan, an opioid antidote, on hand.

“We’re very accommodating. But there are some individuals who abuse this space and unfortunately put us in this position,” Englewood Public Library director Christina Underhill said. Local parents have expressed concerns that curious children may pick up needles or other discarded drug paraphernalia in the library’s bathrooms, and suggested that stronger security measures could help eliminate these risks.