Where there is an identifiable owner of contaminated private property, remediation must be performed by a contractor and completed pursuant to Department of Health guidelines and any applicable guidelines addressing enforcement of public health laws, abatement of public health nuisances, and remedies available to owners or occupants of the property. Minn. Stat. § 152.0275, subd. 2 (c) and (d). The contractor must certify to the owner that the site was cleaned up according to these standards; if the contractor makes this certification and the standards were not met, the contractor is liable to the property owner for additional cleanup costs and attorney fees. Minn. Stat. § 152.0275, subd. 2 (e) and (f).3
If an owner cannot be found or if the methamphetamine waste is located on public land (e.g., road side), the Minnesota Pollution Control Authority (PCA) can declare an emergency under the Minnesota Environmental Response and Liability Act (MERLA). Minn. Stat. § 115B.17. If the PCA declares an emergency, a cleanup crew is dispatched to clean up the site.4
The Public Facility Authority (PFA) operates a revolving account to fund cleanup of clandestine lab sites. A county or city may apply for a loan to remediate such sites if it:
- identifies a site or sites designated by a local public health department or law enforcement as a clandestine lab site;
- has required the site’s property owner to remediate the site, under a local public health nuisance ordinance that addresses clandestine lab remediation;
- certifies that the property owner cannot pay for the remediation immediately;
- certifies that the property owner has not properly remediated the site; and
- issues a revenue bond, payable to the PFA, as security for the loan.
The funds from the loan may be used to either remediate the site or to reimburse the county or city for remediation that has already been completed. The loan recipient must seek restitution from the owner of the property and may do so in any lawful manner, including a special property tax assessment. Minn. Stat. § 446A.083.
3 Many counties have enacted clandestine drug lab abatement statutes that establish detailed guidelines for handling clandestine drug labs. See Benton County, Minn., Ordinance No. 383; Beltrami County, Minn., Ordinance No. 36; Carver County, Minn., Ordinance No. 53-2004; Olmsted County, Minn., Resolution No. 01-99.
4 MERLA imposes liability for cleanup on those who cause an environmental emergency. The PCA has not invoked the liability provisions for methamphetamine labs because the PCA does not get involved in cases where the owner is identifiable. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is often the agency to perform cleanup in cases where criminal activity can be affixed to an individual or individuals. Notwithstanding the fact that methamphetamine manufacturers typically have few financial resources, the liability provisions of MERLA could be used to seek cleanup reimbursement and to recover civil damages.
The content of this post and any related posts has been copied or adopted from the Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department’s Information Brief, Methamphetamine Laws in Minnesota, written by legislative analyst Jeffrey Diebel and Research Assistant Dariel Weaver.
This is part of a series of posts on Methamphetamine (Meth) Laws in Minnesota.