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December 15, 2013

Maureen Hayden: Officials believe meth lab busts may only be scratching the surface

INDIANAPOLIS — Donetta Held knows how strange the world of methamphetamine is.

Along with her husband, Rick, she owns one of the top meth lab cleanup companies in Indiana. When she walks into a home once occupied by a meth cook, she has to assume it’s booby-trapped: Meth makers do weird things like pouring gasoline into light bulbs so that if the cops bust in and flip a switch, the fixture will explode.

“If you’d told me when I was a little girl that I’d be making my living off other people’s illegal activity when I grew up,” Held said, “I would have said, ‘There’s no way.’”

But here she is, cleaning up the toxic debris of other people’s illicit, messy lives.

And business, depending upon how one views it, couldn’t be better.

Held was running her family-owned construction company in rural Greene County when she launched Crisis Cleaning in 2001. She started out cleaning up crime scenes. In 2007, she turned to cleaning up meth lab sites after police told her of the crying need for the service.

They were right. By 2010, Held’s business was booming, and it’s gotten better each year. In terms of both production and use, Indiana is the third-largest meth capital in nation, right behind Missouri and Tennessee. State police who’ve busted nearly 1,900 meth labs so far this year are convinced they’ve just touched the surface.

In 2011, Held published “The Meth Solution,” a primer for professionals on cleaning up the toxic and volatile chemicals left in the woodwork, drywalls, ventilation and sewer pipes of a dwelling used a meth lab site. (One helpful tip: To clean surfaces, use Crystal Clean, a foam developed by the federal government to kill anthrax.)

Concerned there were meth-contaminated homes out there that weren’t getting cleaned, Held developed a meth-residue test kit for homebuyers who want to avoid the $400 or more fee for a professional inspection. The $49 kit includes processing by the same lab used by Held and the other meth cleanup companies certified by the state.

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