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Former meth lab left high toxicity levels inside Snohomish woman's low-income apartment

Testing found high levels of toxicity from chemicals used to make methamphetamine.

SNOHOMISH, Wash. — Green notices warning of a "contaminated property" that is "unsafe to enter" are taped to the front door of Jeanette Westover's apartment.

She moved into a former meth lab and wasn't notified by management, she said.

A meth lab operated at the Pilchuck Place property in Snohomish for years, leaving a toxic mess behind, according to tenants.

Westover's world is now reduced to what she can keep in a small room rented in a house a few blocks away. She said almost everything she owns has been contaminated with the noxious chemicals used to make meth.

"I have no idea what I'm about to encounter as I recover from this," Westover said. "It was like a gas chamber."

Westover alleges that when she moved into her low-income apartment at Pilchuck Place last August she started smelling ammonia and getting sick.

"I started to have burning underneath my skin to where it was itching and burning but you could not scratch it," she said. "I had a cognitive decline and eventually suicidal thoughts."

Neighbors told Westover that a meth lab had operated in the attic above her apartment for about four years and the contaminants weren't properly cleaned up.

When tests were recently run, the toxicity levels from contaminants used to make meth came back off the charts -- anywhere from three to 200 times higher than state guidelines.

"The very air we're breathing from a place that's supposed to be safe is what's making me sick," Westover said. "That understanding kind of rips me apart a little bit inside."

The nonprofit Housing Hope runs the Pilchuck Place and 22 others across Snohomish County and Camano Island. In a press release, a spokesperson for Housing Hope said it had "no complaints or evidence that this unit presented health issues when transitioned between tenants."

"That's not accurate at all," said Cathy Taylor, who lives next door to Westover.

"There's many neighbors who were constantly calling them and telling them about the activity that was happening," Taylor added.

A neighbor living in a house adjacent to Pilchuck Place told KING 5 he had been trying for two years to get the tenant evicted. 

"We even got the mayor involved," he said. "They knew what was going on."

"Housing Hope takes the safety and welfare of our tenants very seriously," a spokesperson said. "We will continue to guide our work deferring to industry and state-certified professionals on any remediation needed for the improved safety of our tenants and staff at Pilchuck Place and any of our properties as required."

Housing Hope acknowledged the contamination in Westover's apartment. Plans are underway to completely remediate it.

Friends have set up a fundraiser to help Westover with her expenses.

For now, she is living off an emergency grant from the City of Snohomish, but that money runs out at the end of April.

Westover doesn't know where she'll go at that point, but she said she'll never return to Pilchuck Place.

Two neighboring units did not have significantly elevated contaminant levels, according a report from Bio Clean, the state-certified drug lab cleanup contractor hired to do the testing.

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