Local government response to illicit drug contamination

The use or production of illicit drugs in a property can contaminate or damage that building.  These impacts may pose a health and safety risk to occupants of or visitors to the property. The Local Government Authority (LGA) may have a role and responsibility in managing those risks.


Many properties where illicit drug activities occurred are never identified. LGA's are notified of only a small fraction of clan labs from police activities. Based on current trends there may be only about 15 actionable clan labs each year in WA. There is no formal process for police notification of properties where cannabis is being grown.

Where an occupant, owner or agent of a property suspects contamination, any resulting investigation or action is normally done privately or through the insurer without the matter being brought to the attention of State or local government. However, sometimes the Department and/or the LGA will become involved.


The public health risks to people associated with a clan lab have been documented in the enHealth guidance on clandestine drug laboratories and public health risks (external site). These risks can be serious for a clan lab that operated within a residence, especially for more vulnerable populations such as young children.

The report on the residues associated with smoking methylamphetamine (meth) (PDF 1MB), which is the main smoked drug that may give rise to property contamination, indicates that such properties are much more common that clan labs and the associated contamination and relative risks they represent are far less. The Department also reiterated this finding in its Public Health Risks of Residues from Smoking Methylamphetamine (PDF 174KB).


If an LGA is referred a notification of a clan lab in their jurisdiction they may use their regulatory powers to require a clan lab to be properly assessed and remediated by a suitably qualified company, such as those on the list of accredited service providers (PDF 222KB). The LGA may stipulate that any work needs to comply with the Guide for testing and remediation of methylamphetamine and illicit drug residues in residential properties (PDF 736KB).

The main applicable legislation for LGA authorised officers is the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1911 (the HMP Act). However, the Public Health Act 2016 (PHA) also provides enforcement options. The LGA's compliance and enforcement strategy may include, and be used to inform, enforcement activities for managing health and safety risks arising from illicit drug use and manufacture. 

The PHA provides powers of entry (Section 240(1)), inspection and seizure by authorised officers and high penalties for non-compliance. Authorised officers may also consider action in relation to a material or serious public health risk activity (Part 11). 

Depending on the nature and the extent of the contamination a property may be required to be vacated until management action has occurred. The HMP Act may be used where any part of a house or building is deemed unfit for human habitation, i.e. where illegal drugs have been manufactured or resulted in contamination, then an unfit for habitation notice may be issued by an authorised officer to the owner or occupier.

If a LGA receives a request or complaint about possible drug residue at a property, it may be assumed, in the absence of any suspicion or evidence of a clan lab, that the most likely source is smoking meth. While meth smoke residues are normally associated with a lower exposure risk, the LGA may need to provide public health advice, especially where laboratory results are available that show surface residue in excess of the Health Investigation Level of 0.5 µg/100cm2 (swab samples).

Site visits

In most cases there will be no need for a LGA to visit a potentially contaminated property.  The value of first-hand information obtained by a site visit will have to be weighed against a range of potential hazards associated with an inspection. Hazards include the contamination itself as well potential aggressive behaviour by occupants or their animals, as well electrical and structure defects.

Where an authorised officer intends to undertake a site visit for notified clan labs, the WA Police may be requested to provide escort to the property.

WorkSafe provides guidance on potential for aggression in the workplace (external site).

It is recommended that a risk assessment, such as a job safety analysis, is undertaken prior to any site visits.

More information

Environmental Health Directorate
Email: clanlabs@health.wa.gov.au
Phone: (08) 9222 2000

Last reviewed: 26-09-2023
Produced by

Environmental Health Directorate