Toxic tenants - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Toxic tenants

Irene Reyes loves the house she shares with her three young children...Even though it used to be a meth lab!

Reyes was asked, "Did you ever hear about methamphetamines?"  She answers, "Uh-uh, no, nothing.  I never heard anything about that."

Action News Five cameras were at a home on Wells Station back in 2003 -- two years before Reyes moved in -- when Memphis police found a meth lab. 
  
Haz-mat crews dismantled it, and removed the lab's hazardous chemicals.

Reyes knew nothing about it until Action News Five showed her a list we got from the DEA.

That list shows her address among dozens of Memphis meth cleanup sites. 

Reyes was asked, "When you moved into this house, did you have any idea that they used to make drugs here?"  She replies, "No, I don't have any idea.  I don't have any idea of that. They don't tell me."

Reyes' landlords may not have told her -- because they don't have to!

When it comes to rentals, Tennessee law requires landlords ensure safety, but says nothing about disclosing former meth labs to tenants -- despite the potential risk.

NIck Ridge, Environmental Hygenist says, "Acetone, ether, some of your volatiles that may still be there.  You have your lithium, you have ammonia that might still be in the walls."

Ridge says every pound of manufactured meth leaves behind five to six pounds of toxic waste...

Chemical residue which settles into the carpet, the walls, the ceiling, the ductwork.

Ridge says unless all that is ripped out and replaced, exposure to meth leftovers inside a home can make those living there sick.

He continues, "Accute health risks that they could have include dizziness, headaches, upper respiratory distress."

Action News Five wanted to know what, if anything, Reyes' out of town landlords had replaced before her family moved in.

In a phone interview with the landlords, we said there were some questions we had about a property you own on Wells Station.

Our repeated phone calls over several days were not returned.

As for long-term affects from meth leftovers, D-E-A agent Andy Dimond says no one knows. 

Dimond was asked, "Should this be disclosed up front?"  He responds, "I would say so, just as you would disclose any other problem with a house that you would have an obligation to disclose."

When it comes to home sales, the Memphis Realtor's Association says state law only obligates a home seller notify buyers of what are called "adverse facts," but the law is not clear whether a former meth lab counts.
  
Realtor William Mitchell says, "In the case where the seller has obtained a clearance letter, but there still may exist some possibility of contaminants in the property, of course we're going to recommend they talk to their attorney and get a legal opinion of whether they should disclose."
 
The DEA says from 2003 to 2005 the agency averaged 180 meth lab cleanups a year in West Tennessee.
  
Action News Five's investigation found that many homes may wind up back on the market...and of the half dozen occupied former meth labs we checked out, only one tenant was told about the home's history.

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