Englewood selects remediation contractor following discovery of more meth contamination

Remediation estimated to take at least 15 days

Tayler Shaw
Posted 1/30/23

After the City of Englewood received data Jan. 23 showing methamphetamine contamination in more areas of its civic center, the city selected a remediation contractor.

“We have made a …

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Englewood selects remediation contractor following discovery of more meth contamination

Remediation estimated to take at least 15 days


After the City of Englewood received data showing meth contamination in more areas of its civic center, the city selected a remediation contractor.

“We have made a decision based on time and cost, and we are moving forward with a company called CES, Custom Environmental Services,” said Englewood Director of Public Works Victor Rachael. 

Custom Environmental Services is a Colorado-based environmental contractor that offers meth abatement services. Rachael said the company is state certified and on the approved Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment list. 

The cleaning process is expected to start within five business days and roughly estimated to take 15-25 days to complete, Rachael said. 

“That could vary a little bit. The additional testing that was just done are not included in the quote from the contractor, so we’ll be adding that to their scope — so the days could extend,” Rachael said. 

City’s additional testing revealed more contamination in civic center  

The original testing the city did in early January revealed levels of meth contamination that exceeded the state’s threshold in the Englewood Public Library, the restrooms on the second floor of the civic center and the north entrance lobby of the civic center. Those areas temporarily closed Jan. 11. 

“Our initial testing was based on two-fold, kind of, information that we learned from Boulder coupled with input from city staff on where they may have seen or had concerns there might have been some activity,” Rachael said. 

In late December, Boulder Public Library temporarily closed after testing found levels of meth contamination in its restroom exhaust vents. 

Chris Harguth, the city’s director of communications, previously told Colorado Community Media that there has been a recent increase in staff and patron reports of drug use at the Englewood library.

“I would say within just a few days of the initial results coming back, we elected to do additional testing, you know, thinking that it’s better to be safe than sorry and, again, trying to look out for employees’ — and citizens’ for that matter — health and safety,” Rachael said. 

The additional testing revealed more areas in the city’s civic center that had meth contamination. 

Rachael said the city received data Jan. 23 from the lab that showed there was meth contamination above the state’s threshold in the south lobby on the first floor of the civic center, in the exhaust vents of the civic center’s third floor restrooms, and in the exhaust vents of the Museum of Outdoor Arts (MOA) restrooms. 

The museum has been closed for quite some time in the civic center, Rachael said. According to a 2019 study published in the National Library of Medicine, residues of meth can “remain embedded in surfaces for years.” 

The third floor restrooms are for employees only, Rachael said. Harguth noted in a Jan. 23 email that these restrooms “were public until a few years ago” and byproducts from contamination can remain for years. 

Deciding to test the restrooms was partly based on input from the city’s testing consultant, Rachael said. QUEST Environmental did both rounds of testing for the city.   

“Our first test results came back and did show the exhaust fans had the highest concentrations. So when we did our additional testing, we made sure to conduct all exhaust vents in any of the other bathrooms, including the MOA space as well as the third floor employee bathrooms.”

After receiving the results, the city temporarily closed the south lobby, but the third floor restrooms remained open, Rachael said, adding, “And that was based on discussions with the county and the state.”

“What’s been conveyed to me is that — because we did test the walls and stuff in the bathrooms, not just the exhaust vents, they came in under the threshold and the exhaust vents were the only thing that came in over and they’re negative pressure, meaning that air is always being sucked up and out — that the exposure risk was minimal to zero,” he said.

Experts like Eric Hill, an emergency medicine physician and the EMS medical director for the Medical Center of Aurora, previously told Colorado Community Media that secondary meth contamination in public spaces poses a fairly low risk to the public.

“I seriously doubt someone would be symptomatic related to exhaust vent residue in an exhaust vent. It certainly means that, yes, there was methamphetamine smoked in there, but I think the public health risk is fairly low on that,” Hill said. 

As of Jan. 27, the Englewood Public Library, the civic center’s second floor public restrooms and the north and south civic center lobbies are closed until further notice. 

“We did secure additional restroom facilities for the public, since the public bathrooms are closed. We have a heated bathroom trailer here, available at the service center with separate women’s and men’s facilities, and we also secured two ADA-compliant portalets,” Rachael said. 

“And we increased security during the day, when people might be using those, to help prevent any contamination concerns on these temporary facilities,” he added. 

What are the costs? 

The original testing the city did in early January cost approximately $2,800, Harguth said via email. 

Rachael said the city has not yet gotten the exact cost of the additional testing but thinks it will be in line with the original testing cost. 

For the cost of remediation, it was estimated to be approximately $40,000 for the initial remediation, Rachael said, but that cost will increase due to the additional testing finding contamination in more spaces. 

“We’re getting a quote for that now, so the cost will increase based on the new scope requirements,” Rachael said. 

Remediation process will not be as extensive as city originally thought 

Originally, the city thought the cleaning process would involve a more extensive remediation for the restrooms in the library and the restrooms on the second floor of the civic center, likely involving the removal of drywall and ductwork. 

“That’s no longer the case, is our understanding,” Rachael said. “The contractor who does the remediation … they’re gonna be doing just a deep cleaning on all surfaces.” 

Harguth said in his email that the city anticipates the process will require a triple application of a mild detergent to clean the affected areas. 

Rachael explained this three-application cleaning process is what the remediation contractor will be doing for most of the contaminated spaces — the restrooms in the library, the civic center’s second floor restrooms, the north civic center lobby and the south civic center lobby. 

“The MOA bathrooms and the third floor bathrooms, the contamination was only in the exhaust vents, so there’ll be different cleaning for the exhaust vents,” he said. 

The city said on its website there were some spaces in the library that tested positive for “lower levels of contamination.” When asked if these spaces will also be undergoing the three-application cleaning process, Rachael said, “Yeah, as appropriate.”

“Some of the materials are going to be a little bit different. There’s the floor, there’s the walls with the drywall, there’s things like — there’s a park bench that’s gotta be cleaned. 

“So, generally, yes, I would say it’s the three-application cleaning process. They may have to get a little more intricate depending on the material, though,” he added.

Looking ahead

Rachael said the city is having conversations as it moves forward through the remediation process about what reopening will look like and what it should include to help prevent this situation in the future. 

“We’re looking at things like regular deep cleanings, similar to what’s being done now. We’re also looking at increased security. We’re looking at technology options — additional detection devices that can pick up not only smoke but other particles in the air,” Rachael said. 

“The health, safety and welfare of staff and the general public are the reason things are closed, the reasons we did the testing — and (are) gonna be our focus, as they have been, as we move into reopening and trying to make this a safe public space for all to enjoy.” 

Englewood meth, Englewood Civic Center, Englewood Public Library, Englewood library closed, methamphetamine contamination


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