Colorado’s second library closes to clean up meth contamination

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Closed Libraries - Methamphetamine
Signs will be posted on exterior doors informing visitors that both the library and restrooms will be closed due to methamphetamine contamination on January 12, 2022 in the Denver suburb of Englewood, Colorado.

David Zalubowski/AP

Englewood, Colorado. – For the second time in a month, a library in Colorado has been closed to clean up meth contamination.

Officials in Englewood, a Denver suburb, closed the city library hours last week after getting test results Wednesday that showed contamination in the facility’s restroom exceeded state thresholds, the gate said. city ​​spokesman Chris Harguth.

Other areas, such as counters, have also tested positive for lower drug levels and will require specialist cleaning, he said. Large-scale remediation work includes the removal of contaminated surfaces, walls, ducts and exhaust fans.

The town of about 33,000 just south of Denver decided to test the drug after officials in the nearby college town of Boulder closed the main library after discovering methamphetamine contamination, Harguth said.

It is the latest example of the balance urban libraries must strike between making their facilities welcoming to all and keeping them clean and safe. When a spate of library overdoses was reported in the mid-2010s as the opioid crisis spread across the United States, some libraries were stocked with the antidote Naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan.

So far, it appears that library closures due to methamphetamine contamination are limited to Colorado, according to American Library Association spokesman Raymond Garcia, who has been unaware of any others in the country as of late. years. The group declined to say whether drug use had increased in libraries, citing a lack of current data.

Health officials say meth residues can be irritating and cause symptoms such as an itchy throat, runny nose and bloodshot eyes. But secondary exposure is not believed to cause long-term chronic health problems, Harguth said.

Drug use is not common at Englewood Library, but reports of it have increased in recent months as colder weather has led more people to seek refuge there, with only a small number between them, said the library’s director, Christina Underhill. More generally, the library has attracted more homeless people since the library fully reopened after its closure at the start of the pandemic.

“We’re very accommodating,” Underhill said. But “there are individuals who are taking advantage of this space and unfortunately have put us in this position”.

Brenda Folsom, who picked up her grandchildren from school near Englewood Library on Thursday, said she has seen an increase in drug use in the area over the past two years, especially in her local park. She fears that her grandsons, ages 3 and 8, who go to the library with their father, and other curious children will take needles and other drug paraphernalia from her bathrooms.

“I think if they cleaned their toilets a little bit more or were careful about the toilets and the things or the people that go there, they wouldn’t have this problem,” Folsom said. According to her, the library should be better secured and the facilities should be checked more often.

Boulder officials suggested the closure of their city’s library last month was a result of strict state regulations to clean up meth after testing revealed it. They also pointed out that standards for acceptable levels of methamphetamine contamination have been developed with consideration for homes, where frequent exposure is more likely than in public buildings.

Colorado’s rules are “among the most conservative in the country, taking great care to protect infants and children from exposure,” the city said in a Dec. 28 statement.

The Boulder Library has since reopened, but bathrooms remain closed while crews carry out decontamination work, including replacing fans and vents, spokeswoman Annie Elliott said. Once this is done, the toilets will remain locked and anyone wishing to use them must request access from a member of staff or a security guard.

The Englewood Library has made some changes to help the homeless who go there. According to Underhill, an outreach group meets every Monday to offer services such as assistance with obtaining ID, food stamps and housing.

But after some library patrons said they felt unsafe, the city hired security guards last year, she said. It has also created a code of conduct to help librarians enforce the rules.

Englewood also recently increased funding to add more staff in hopes of discouraging drug use, according to the library’s website.

“Library use has changed,” Underhill said. “More and more people are coming to use it as a shelter.”

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