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Meth house remains contaminated and an eyesore
It’s been two years since a meth lab was found in a treehouse next to a Sidney Avenue residence, and the place has long been a nuisance for neighbors and local authorities.
But though the property is an eyesore — and the single-wide trailer is posted as uninhabitable until it’s properly decontaminated — the place is kind of in limbo. Neither city officials nor health district inspectors can do anything else at this point.
That’s discouraging to Rebecca and Scott Sootoo, who live with their 5-year-old daughter on the other side of a shared driveway from the lot where junked cars sit in front of the rundown former drug house.
“I’m sure having an abandoned meth lab next to me isn’t helping my property,” Rebecca Sootoo said this week.
“I was concerned about runoff on my property,” which is situated downhill from the trailer.
She and her husband thought the contaminated trailer was going to be removed last fall, but apparently neither the city nor the health district have the authority or means to do that.
Port Orchard development director James Weaver said he had not discussed removal of the trailer in any meetings with neighboring property owners.
“The city is responsible for boarding it up; that’s our only responsibility,” he said. “The anticipation of the neighborhood seems be far out of the scope of any municipal codes that are in place for this.”
Lucas Jordan, an environmental health specialist with Kitsap Public Health District, said the biggest concern with the abandoned trailer is “minimizing risk, and the best way to minimize risk is to keep people out of there.”
So signs are posted on the front door stating the trailer, which was used in meth production as well as the treehouse, is contaminated and uninhabitable. But records indicate that the occupants continued to live there off and on for months, in violation of the health district notices.
Sootoo said the former residents were still seen on the property as recently as last fall, even though water and electric service had been cut off to the residence.
One complicating factor, Jordan explained, is that the property owner is responsible for cleaning up a contaminated residence, and the owner of the Sidney Avenue property — Lewis Spencer, who was not living there at the time of the meth bust in Feburary 2010 — died last year.
His daughter, Cynthia Mintz, has written letters to the city stating she wants to keep the property and would like to return to living there, but can’t afford to get the trailer decontaminated, which requires hiring a state-certified contractor to do the job.
“We are continuing to follow up to make sure nobody inhabits the structure because it is a health hazard,” Jordan said.
When detectives with the West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team found the meth operation on the property two years ago, they arrested Neil R. Vanderpol and Jesika Mintz on drug manufacturing charges.
Vanderpol, who had numerous prior drug convictions, was arrested there again in June 2010 and ultimately was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Apparently the former occupants have done some cleanup on the lot, removing some trash and debris that had littered the site.
And the treehouse once contaminated by meth cooking is long gone.
“In this case, the occupants of the house that were not incarcerated at the time of the bust decided to go ahead and tear down treehouse, and dispose of the wast without going through proper channels,” Jordan said. “But the mobile home is still considered to be a contaminated structure.”