Alberta could become the first jurisdiction in North America to have guidelines for cleaning up former marijuana grow-op houses.
The government has been given a set of guidelines developed by the University of Calgary and the Alberta Real Estate Association to refurbish such homes, often contaminated with mould.
Bill Fowler, director of government relations for the association, said former grow-op houses pose many health and financial risks for tenants, including toxic moulds, water and structural damage and unsafe electrical wiring.
The government could provide protection for tenants and owners by adopting the proposed new standards, says the realtors association, which worked with researchers at the University of Calgary to develop the proposals.
"Calgary and Edmonton both have standards," said Fowler. "Some of the smaller health regions did have some standards, but again, it's that co-ordinated effort and how's it handled right from the bust, right through to the remediation. And what we've identified [in the research] is both process and standards."
According to Calgary police, about 100 former marijuana-growing operations are condemned in the city each year.
Many of these properties are returned to the market in unsafe condition.
"We want our clients to know that the home they are buying is safe," said Fowler.
Environmental design professor Tang Lee and his associate, Karen Rollins, investigated six former grow-op homes in Calgary and area looking mainly for structural alterations, mould and electrical problems.
Lee said his research details stringent regulations on testing for air quality and structural integrity, and offers benchmarks for resolution of such issues.
"What we need to do is to find out whether there are any health risks to moving back in," he said. "And you don't know that until you go back in and undertake some testing."
If adopted by the province, their recommendations will help standardize the rehabilitation of former grow-ops. It’s estimated that the typical cost of remediation to be $25,000 to $30,000.
"Adoption of these recommendations will help protect homeowners, tenants, and prospective buyers in Alberta from indoor contaminants caused by illegal drug operations," said Lee. "We hope to facilitate a cohesive rehabilitation process."
In 2003 and 2004, 78 grow-op homes in Calgary were condemned after toxic mould made them too hazardous to live in.