South Australia’s ice problem: Number of meth-contaminated homes rising quickly

man getting ready to clean contaminated building
Sean O'Shea - a cleaning business owner who specialises in the decontamination of houses that have been used to cook meth and other drugs. Picture: Tom Huntley

Published News Story – Sunday Mail – February 2, 2019

Sean O’Shea cleans houses destroyed by a methamphetamine tidal wave that has swamped South Australia for the past eight years.

Mr O’Shea runs a cleaning business qualified to deal with the aftermath of meth cooking in homes and says the problem is “snowballing”.

His company, O’Shea’s Organisation, now cleans up to three drug houses a week and is showing no signs of slowing up.

Sadly, Mr O’Shea told The Advertiser he was warned by West Australian police officers a decade ago that meth use and production wreaking havoc in WA would soon find a new home in Adelaide.

“They were explaining how bad it was at a conference in Victoria after we got our licence for methamphetamine remediation,” Mr O’Shea said.

“Even back then they said: ‘There’s a tsunami wave coming and it’s coming your way’.

“We didn’t have a job for about two years, but then we got one, we got two, and they started rolling in after that.”

Mr O’Shea, 49, said officers described being overrun by meth – or ice as it is commonly known – and forecast the same, if not worse, for SA.

Last year, police busted the two biggest meth clandestine laboratories in state history.

Oshea's Drug Cleaning

Suiting up: What’s required for methamphetamine decontamination

drug needles on the table

Drug Paraphernalia

Almost 40 clandestine labs were detected last financial year with the majority – 15 – uncovered in the western suburbs.

“This stuff is so dangerous, it’s the new asbestos,” Mr O’Shea said.

“Cleanliness goes out the window, you wouldn’t eat a sandwich off what these people use.”

Mr O’Shea said ice production sucked the “homely feel” out of properties.

“We rip the carpet out, rip the underlay out, all the furnishings, all the kids’ toys with a full decontamination. Even the airconditioning has to go,” he said.

“And these are just the houses we find.”

Mr O’Shea said a meth lab found at Bellevue Heights last July was an $800-per week rental.

He said it had a swimming pool, tennis court and roses along the footpath, but was used to cook commercial amounts of ice.

“The tenant had moved out and the bottom of fridges and freezers were corroded,” he said.

“It was tested and the meth levels went through the roof.”

Another property at Underdale was so contaminated it took weeks to clean.

“You’re in a contaminated, toxic environment because all your carpets and lounge suites just absorb meth,” he said.

“People start getting sick, have a runny nose and sore eyes. There’s all different sorts of symptoms and people don’t even know why their crook.”

Mr O’Shea said workers wear biohazard suits and respirator masks for protection against the deadly toxins.

“People get so addicted they just don’t care about the cleaning, they lose the plot and looking after their kids or anything else goes out the window,” he said.

“Sadly, we see that a lot when people were cooking with the kids at the property.”

Last October, police uncovered a secret lab – just 900m from a primary school – on Marston Dr at Morphett Vale on October 7.

They seized 11kg of methamphetamine worth $5.5 million. A further 120kg of powder was found and is awaiting analysis. Its value is unknown.

Then a “super lab” capable of producing hundreds of millions of dollars of meth was shut down on October 28 just as it was being expanded at Croydon.

Officers seized hundreds of kilograms of precursor chemicals, powders and acids as well as industrial-scale laboratory equipment from the Scotia St property.

Another industrial-scale meth lab linked to Croydon was found at Kilkenny on October 31.

In total, five men and a woman were arrested and charged.

Detective Chief Inspector Tony Crameri, the officer in charge of the Drug and Organised Crime Task Force, hailed 2018 as a “successful year”.

The major busts came on the back of a record haul in February when police broke up a 313kg meth importing racket worth $270 million. Drugs were found in crane jibs on-board a ship bound for Adelaide. Three men were charged.

“We continue to focus on people manufacturing meth because it’s about making the community safer,” Det Insp Crameri said.

“Offenders will look at any way that they can to make money. The people that are manufacturing don’t care about the harm they cause to the people that are users.

“Especially in the super labs that we’ve seen, (there was) lots of smells, there was lots of chemicals.”

Det Insp Crameri said police relied on the community to stay vigilant and provide information on possible lab locations.

Mr O’Shea said people in quiet suburbs and landlords had the most cause for concern.

He recommended landlords get rentals tested for meth to prove the property is clean before leasing.

“These cooks are making so much money they can afford expensive rentals,” he said.

“Labs are everywhere and it’s becoming quite a big part of our business.

“The bigger operations you are surprised because they bank on people believing it wouldn’t happen in their area.”


February, 2018

Police discover 313 clip seal bags of methamphetamine on a ship bound for Adelaide. The drugs – worth $270 million – were carefully hidden inside crane jibs. Authorities believe the consignment, bound for Adelaide, originated from Southeast Asia.

Morphett Vale — October 7, 2018

Police seize 11kg of methamphetamine worth $5.5 million and 120kg of unknown powder from home on Marston Dr.

Croydon — October 28, 2018

A super lab capable of producing hundreds of millions of dollars of meth is found on Scotia St. Hundreds of kilograms of precursor chemicals, powders and laboratory equipment is seized.


– Suspicious items, including improvised heating and cooling mechanisms

– Used materials surrounding a property, including cold and flu packets, empty pseudoephedrine blister strips, gas cylinders or butane fuel cans, stained coffee filters, pH testers or test strips, and water pumps

– An unusual chemical smell

– Plastic containers, with or without chemical labels

– Laboratory glassware

– Fan or pump type noise

– Residents never putting their rubbish out or burning their rubbish

– Little or no traffic at a property during the day but frequent traffic late at night or at odd hours

– Blackened, covered or reinforced windows

– Unusual electrical work

– Hoses and pipes near windows or doors

– Extractor fans, particularly in garages or sheds

– Chemical/reaction waste, often carelessly disposed of

– Suspicious packages being brought onto premises via couriers or other means.

As a landlord, you might notice:

– A new tenant willing to pay rent months in advance using only cash

– New rental applicants trying to avoid background checks

– A premises recently rented by residents who are rarely there

– A new tenant who is never there, however other unknown persons are.

What to do?

Call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. The ingredients used in drug labs are highly toxic, flammable and dangerous.

Contact O’Sheas on 08 8355 5727 for a quote to have an inspection or to decontaminate a Meth Lab

Scroll to Top