Investigation: Was your home a former meth lab?

Investigation: Was your home a former meth lab?

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- It's not something you're likely to look for when buying a home: was meth cooked here? And if it was it can be dangerous to you and your family.

Meth labs were being busted on a weekly basis about ten-years ago. Changes to the laws helped cut back on the problem but many still go undetected. Action News discovered it leaves innocent victims like you to fend for yourself.

If only the walls could talk.

"Curbside appeal was really nice," said homebuyer Ruth Drollinger. "Everything was really nice."

The house in Naches seemed to speak for itself, but if the house told you its secrets you'd be shocked.

"Things were really odd," she said. "The bathtubs were torn up."

Same with the sinks and carpets. But it was what Ruth couldn't see that was really the problem.

"I spent like six hours researching it. I called the Department of Health," she said.

The current seller didn't reveal any issues and really didn't have to. But Ruth learned the truth contacted the former owners.

"Shocking that this home was completely contaminated," Ruth said.

Contaminated with meth. The former owners have the paper work to prove it. Yet the house sits for sale today; still on the market. There's nothing illegal about it.

Action News began making our own calls and learned the Drug Enforcement Agency posts online some homes that were once used to manufacture meth.

It's a small list with just six in our area, but the health district knows of 60. Both agencies admit their lists are far from complete.

"If law enforcement never went in for a bust we wouldn't have gone there," said Gordon Kelly, director of Environmental Resources at the Yakima Health District. "So we can't act on something we don't know."

We looked into the police calls to the Naches home that Ruth wanted to buy and found cops had been there a lot but never for a drug bust.

"Somebody has, through their own research, concrete evidence that there was a drug lab in the home - what can they do?" Action News asked.

"If I was that buyer I would go to who's selling it and say provide me with documents saying this home was returned to suitable condition," Kelly said.

He said all the former meth labs on this list are considered safe to live in, but would you raise your kids there?

We found many homeowners didn't know the dirty secrets within their walls.

"Your home is actually on the list. Were you aware before you rented or bought that they used to make meth here?" Action News asked a woman living in a home on the list.

And while her house is technically safe, her sense of security is gone.

"I didn't know anything about it," she said. "Very surprised."

State law requires homes on this list to include a clause in the title stating drugs were once manufactured there. But the house Ruth was looking at wasn't on the list, so what do you do in that case?

"So should every potential home buyer be paying someone to inspect for drugs?" Action News asked.

"I wouldn't. That would not be my recommendation," Kelly said.

His recommendation: talk to neighbors and look for signs like the torn up sinks, but remember some signs you can't see.

"It can absorb into the dry wall, absorb into the carpet," he said.

A typical home inspection doesn't check for meth. Testing for it can cost thousands.

"What really hurts here is the families and children. And people that will move in here," Ruth said.

She never bought the home but worries about the person who will.

"Maybe they put their life savings into buying a home like this," Ruth said. "It's really wrong. Someone needs to do something about it."

She would like to see a law on the books requiring meth testing on all bank-owned homes.

Former state representative Jim Clements from Selah did push legislators to pass something similar to that while in office. But nothing came of that.

Bottom line: if you have suspicions do your research and spend the money to get the answers you need.

*Editor's note: In the story's original broadcast and in the attached video, the house investigated by Ruth Drollinger was reported as being in Tieton.  The home is listed by the Yakima Sheriff's Office as being in Tieton, but some recent road changes made that area Naches.  The written story reflects this change.