Meth-contaminated rooms to be cleaned up at another Samish Way motel

The owners of the Villa Inn are moving toward cleaning eight rooms contaminated by methamphetamine use at their north Samish Way motel.

The contamination was detected through tests conducted by the Whatcom County Health Department. Every room tested came back “hot” for residue from meth being smoked inside — for a total of nine out of nine.

One contaminated room was cleaned earlier this year.

As part of the cleanup, the inn applied for and received a building permit to remove and replace sheet rock and insulation in rooms 4, 5, 7, 9, 25, 36, 40 and 42.

Contamination levels were 44 to 290 times the current cleanup standard, according to Jeff Hegedus, environmental health supervisor with the Whatcom County Health Department.

A man who answered the phone at the Villa Inn on Thursday, Nov. 20, declined to comment. The owners are Jodh, Surrinder, Balwant and Sarbjit — all with the last name of Ghag, according to the Whatcom County Assessor.

The health department approved the cleanup plan on Oct. 23, just days before the Bellingham City Council voted to begin condemnation proceedings against another meth-contaminated Samish Way spot, the Aloha Motel.

The Villa Inn’s contaminated rooms, marked on the outside with orange stickers, can’t be used until they’ve been cleaned to acceptable levels. The inn is at 212 N. Samish Way.

Whatcom County requires cleanup if tests show contamination levels at 0.1 microgram per 100 square centimeters and higher.

Meth is a highly toxic and addictive drug that can be injected, snorted, smoked or ingested. Residue left behind — on surfaces like walls, carpets, curtains and countertops — when someone smokes meth contaminates a property and poses a health risk to occupants.

Dizziness, nausea, headaches, throat irritation and weight loss are among the symptoms people might experience if they’re in a contaminated space.

The health department manages such cleanup projects.

A state-certified contractor has submitted a cleanup plan to the health department, which has approved it subject to conditions that include an asbestos survey.

Cleanup could cost $6,000 to $10,000 per room; the Villa Inn’s owners are responsible for the cost.

Bellingham police conducting investigations, and some room residents, asked the health department to test the rooms; the health department doesn’t have the legal authority to go in and test on its own.

The Villa Inn and Aloha Motel, 301 and 315 N. Samish Way, have been a focus for Bellingham police and officials because they were among those receiving the highest number of police calls.

Mayor Kelli Linville and the Bellingham City Council are moving forward with condemnation proceedings against the Aloha Motel, because it has long been a hub of crime and drug activity.

The case was up to a year in the making and part of an overall plan to clean up Samish Way and deal with other problem motels in the area, officials have said.

The owners of the Aloha are listed as Sang and Mi Yi.