KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Two Kanawha County homes -- one in Davis Creek and one in South Charleston -- have been condemned after police discovered meth labs inside on Wednesday.
While the homes are condemned, they will not necessarily be torn down. Instead, the condemnation notice means that no one can go inside the house for any reason until it has been tested by certified crews and cleaned up to rid the home of any lingering residue or contamination from cooking meth.
When Sue Sergi saw the orange slip of paper and "Warning" notice on her neighbor's house on Hunters Ridge Road in Davis Creek, she was immediately concerned.
"That scared us all," Sergi said. "We didn't know what it meant for us -- if our health was at risk, if we were at risk, if our property was at risk."
In South Charleston and Kanawha County, meth ordinances indicate that a home must be condemned when police find evidence that someone has been cooking meth inside.
"We board up the windows, we board up the doors and basically put a placard front and rear on any access," Stephen Neddo, planning director for Kanawha County, said. "[We] then advise the public that those premises are condemned."
The process is similar in the city of South Charleston, according to city engineer Steve DeBarr, who is responsible for condemning the homes.
"We board it up to prevent entry," DeBarr said. "I write a letter to the owner advising them of that."
From there, the homeowner must bear the costs of testing and cleaning the home. DeBarr and Neddo said the process can be drawn out and there isn't a specific time frame for cleanup, although they usually try to encourage people to resolve the issue within 30 days.
"[The crews] test various places in the premises, HVAC systems, bedrooms, anything to do with air movement," Neddo said.
While most homeowners usually comply with cleanup, not all are willing or can afford it. That's when the county or city has to step in.
"If the owner decides not to clean it up, we will clean it up. We don't have that option in Kanawha County. We'll clean up the premises," Neddo said.
"We would then seek an order to have the house demolished and removed from the site," DeBarr said.
DeBarr said he hasn't seen that happen since he's been working for South Charleston. Currently, he said, there are only three condemned houses in the city, including the one condemned on Davis Creek.
Neddo said there are 36 condemned homes in the county's jurisdiction. Ten of those have court orders and may eventually be demolished.
When a homeowner doesn't comply with cleanup requests, the county or city has to bear the costs. The money comes out of law enforcement budgets, which are taxpayer-funded. Then, the city or county puts a lien on the property in the hopes of eventually recouping the costs.
In the meantime, neighbors say they feel concerned about what is going on near their homes.
"It's a danger to everybody on account of their kids," Heather Mullins, who lives in South Charleston, said. "It bothers me, and it also bothers my husband, so I don't really like my kids being around it."
They also expressed concern about the condemned homes affecting their own property values.
"You just think, who would want to buy that property that's there beside you?" Sergi said. "It can hurt the whole neighborhood."
Sergi said she feels better knowing that her home isn't at risk for contamination.
"I'll feel even better when it's cleaned up," she said.