UC Berkeley yet to clean up methamphetamine-contaminated unit at University Village

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Allen Zeng/Staff

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Wooden boards and caution tape cover the doors of a shuttered apartment at the UC Berkeley University Village, Albany, where a taped notice announces the reason for the quarantine: “METHAMPHETAMINE CLEANUP ORDER.”

For months, Suite 787 at 786 Red Oak Ave. has been shuttered after dangerous levels of methamphetamine and fentanyl — a deadly opioid — were detected inside the unit, which sits amid others currently occupied by families of campus graduate students. Levels of methamphetamine were found to be 200 times as concentrated as what is considered safe.

The campus is responsible for cleaning and remediating the quarantined unit. Though given 30 days to submit a cleanup order under California law, the campus has not yet submitted a mandated plan to do so.

According to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore, a 911 call reporting a suspected fentanyl overdose at 786 Red Oak Ave. in the University Village on May 9, 2018, tipped off authorities about the presence of drugs in the apartment unit. The individual suspected of overdosing was conscious when authorities arrived and was arrested by UCPD on outstanding felony charges, Gilmore said in an email.

Gilmore added that the individual was not affiliated with campus housing. Another nonaffiliated individual was arrested on outstanding warrants. The relationships the two had with the tenant was not clarified.

The arrests also resulted in the detection of methamphetamine on the premises. Soon thereafter, the campus hired BioMax Environmental, an industrial hygiene company, to survey and clean the quarantined apartment unit.

Though the notice posted outside the apartment attributed the quarantine to the possible manufacturing or storage of methamphetamine on the premises, Gilmore said the unit “was not a meth lab” and that exposure had been limited to consumption.

Inside the apartment, cleaning materials and children’s clothing can be seen strewn across the floor, visible from the windows. The apartment, located on the south side of the University Village housing complex, is a standard three-bedroom, single-family unit. Graduate student families, typically with young children, live in units in close proximity; one unit above the quarantined apartment is currently inhabited.

After Alameda County Department of Environmental Health, or ACDEH, taped its public safety announcement to the door Dec. 3, 2018. The campus or its contracted cleaning company had 30 days to submit a plan for cleanup. The campus also has to fund the cleanup before the unit can be deemed safe again. Currently, more than two months later, that plan has still not been submitted, according to Susan Hugo, division chief for ACDEH.

“The UC or whoever is the owner is required to provide us with a remediation or clean up work plan,” Hugo said. “I don’t know where that is at this time. It’s not clear to me.”

Regarding the campus cleanup plan, Gilmore said that “work toward that effort is underway but the submission has not occurred yet.” The campus’s contracted industrial hygiene company, BioMax Environmental, was unavailable for comment as of press time.

Contact Brandon Yung at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @brandonyung1.