County: Drug decontamination work on future transitional housing site in Edmonds could start any day

Fencing around the former America’s Best Value Inn on Edmonds Highway 99. (My Edmonds News file photo)

Cleanup and decontamination for the former America’s Best Value Inn and Suites in Edmonds could start any day now, according to Kelsey Nyland with Snohomish County’s Office of Resilience and Recovery. The site, which tested positive for contamination with the Schedule II drug methamphetamine, is one of two locations purchased by Snohomish County to become transitional housing called “New Start” sites.

As a part of the sales agreement, the county tested the Edmonds hotel and found high levels of drug contamination “in every room, in every common area… but not high enough to show the manufacturing of drugs, but enough people in enough rooms (were) doing meth often enough that it became a problem,” Snohomish County spokesperson Kent Patton said in December 2022.

The county awarded the cleanup bid for the Edmonds site to Bellingham-based company Accurate Assessment Decontamination (AA) on April 20. AA’s estimate for the project was $348,000, over $50,000 less than the county engineer’s estimate for the project. AA was one of three companies to bid on the project.

“There are a few formalities left between the contractor and purchasing to ensure final acceptance,” Nyland said of the timeline in an email. Once the contract has been finalized, AA will have 15 days to begin the decontamination and 30 days to complete it, Nyland added.

According to the county’s bid award recommendation, AA must abate and decontaminate the rooms and common areas of the hotel property to the standards of the state and county’s health department guidelines. The guidance for these levels exist in the Washington Administrative Code, which says decontamination standards amount to: “Methamphetamine of less than or equal to 1.5 micro grams per 100 square centimeters.”

Craig Alger, co-owner of AA, said this is a standard that, “when achieved, and all other physical hazards associated with drug use have been removed, results in a building that is safe to occupy for staff and residents.” Alger noted that the only way to reach zero drug contamination is to “remove all drywall and subflooring,” which is “usually not necessary to achieve the cleanup standard.”

The original amounts of methamphetamine at the Edmonds hotel indicated the consumption of methamphetamines on-site, but not the manufacture or storage of the drug. Nonetheless, Alger described the work as a labor-intensive decontamination process.

“Think of removing, lifting and disposing of heavy furniture, mattresses and carpeting followed by extremely thorough manual cleaning over every square inch of remaining surfaces,” he said.

The project is made especially difficult by its scale. “A typical drug cleanup site is a one- to two-bedroom home or apartment,” Alger said. “However, the decontamination process is the same for any room or area of the building. So instead of repeating that process in just a couple of bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room, we are repeating those same steps in 50-plus hotel rooms and a couple dozen common/employee areas.”

Additionally, Alger noted the tight turnaround of this project will make it especially important to ensure the safety of workers on-site, and avoid unnecessary damage to the building. Nonetheless, he estimated it will be completed within the 30-day limit.

Once AA has completed the project, the company will test the New Start site again.

“The testing is required to be conducted by a contractor certified by the state,” Nyland said. “Since the county does not have the ability to conduct the testing internally, we rely on expert outside contractors for that work.”

As for the Everett site, formerly a Day’s Inn, Nyland said the bid will go live “shortly.”

“We are conducting equivalent decontamination efforts at both sites, as both sites tested positive for methamphetamine contamination,” Nyland wrote. “The New Start Center in Edmonds will likely be faster to remediate, because it has fewer rooms.”

Funding for both of these projects will come from the $160 million Snohomish County received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the county’s own funds. The county’s Office of Resilience and Recovery was formed to oversee the distribution of the ARPA funds.

— By Mardy Harding

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