Why Drugs & Electricity Don’t Mix
We don’t need more proof positive that drugs, and those involved with them, can lead to making bad decisions. But the truth is that despite hundreds of articles about it, people continue to make poor decisions and suffer because of it. In some parts of the country, marijuana growing on a personal scale is now legal – and these kinds of problems are more prevalent and obvious because they don’t have to be hidden anymore (23 states and DC now allow medical marijuana usage).
The worst part is for consumers and home-buyers – especially those seeking their first home purchase – who get stuck with the affects, and sometimes consequences, of these poor decisions. Unscrupulous home sellers won’t necessarily disclose a home’s history of remodeling – and most traces of previous manufacturing and growing are toxic in nature and will not be gone without professional abatement. While realtors ethics mean agents have to disclose knowledge of this, most ‘flippers’ won’t tell their realtors if their home had a poor previous history – or why they had to replace all the carpets and repaint the whole home. When dealing with foreclosures, bank owned properties, and long-term vacant homes there is no guarantee anyone knows an accurate history, either. Anyone can move into a home polluted with toxic drug residue.
In addition to the remnants left behind, pot growers were using about $6 billion worth of electricity a year – enough to power something like 2 million homes. Those are the acknowledged and legal growers of marijuana who are documented and does not count the thousands of illegal grow warehouses that steal and siphon electricity directly from the grid. Both marijuana and crystal meth producers are infamous for rigging temporary ventilating means that compromise the wholeness of the building they occupy – and flood the surrounding area with noxious fumes that can create adverse health issues in those who actually live in the homes and apartments surrounding a ‘grow op’ or ‘meth lab’.
Places where people ‘cook up’ batches of crystal meth also go to extreme lengths for ventilation. New ‘developments’ in chemistry mean that it’s no longer quite as easy to spot meth labs – yellow-walled rooms and ammonia-scented space is less common, and the chemical preparations easier to disguise. This means it’s even harder for potential buyers to spot contaminated properties.
An illegal marijuana ‘grow-op’ is a hot house of hazards – vast quantities of chemical fertilizers, dense concentration of ultrafine particles, and excessive levels of carbon dioxide and monoxide. Between powerful propane burners to produce CO2 to accelerate plant growth and highly powerful, destructive UV lamps running around the clock, the indoor air quality of most grow-ops is dangerous. Extremely high humidity – almost to the point of saturation – combined with chemical fertilizer mixtures and drying plant fumes combine into a cocktail which is frequently exhausted out the nearest hole to the outdoors with little regard for anyone or anything nearby. In addition, the saturated air leads to mold growth not just in the plants, but a permeation of its spores throughout the property, fueled by its HVAC system and the make-shift ventilation shafts.
The worst – by far – seems to be the electrical issues created by running hundreds of high powered lights in tiny, confined spaces, high powered ventilation systems, and countless other elements dependent on electricity. Whether things work or not is the only goal of these make-shift electricians, and the systems they build are horrifyingly dangerous to anyone sharing space with them.
Illegal grow ops aren’t even interested in paying for this electricity – instead, they are happy to steal it with illegal and direct taps to city power supplies.
Running sophisticated grow light operations – complete with transformers and capacitors to keep power flowing – can be hazardous, too. Even legal grow-ops must run huge strings of high-power overhead lights, banks of transformers and capacitors, timers, sprinklers, etc. It is not unusual to walk through a maze of wires, plastic, ventilation, and chemical-laden air in these kinds of environments. The vast quantity of power drawn through the property makes electrical fire risk extremely high in a work environment where safety is rarely – if ever – a concern
Even legal grow operations in authorized states are so fraught with electrical dangers that firefighters are no longer expected to enter them, nor fight the fires except defensively. This comes after many injuries and even deaths to rescue workers who would kill the known power supply and still find themselves being electrocuted while trying to safeguard marijuana. Illegal tapping and resulting fires seems to be an international problem too, with our friends in Canada, the UK, and elsewhere struggling with similar issues. Smart metering is yet another measure intended to isolate and eventually eliminate incidents of power theft; this tool will be especially useful in targeting drug production or growing operations.
Keep in mind. if you are looking at a property with some ‘odd’ features – like extra holes in walls and floors, extra venting or random plumbing, a powerful ‘skunk’-like odor, or an oddly suspicious electrical system – it’s ok to walk away from the ‘invisible issues’ that lurk because someone else has wreaked havoc on what could have been a beautiful property.
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This is an original article written by Mai Bjorklund for Swartz Electric. This article may not be copied whole or in part without the express permission of Swartz Electric, LLC.
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