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Meth contamination is forcing libraries to close in Colorado

Signs are placed on the outside doors to advise visitors that the library as well as a restroom are closed because of meth contamination Thursday, Jan. 12, 2022, in the south Denver suburb of Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (AP)
Signs are placed on the outside doors to advise visitors that the library as well as a restroom are closed because of meth contamination Thursday, Jan. 12, 2022, in the south Denver suburb of Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (AP)

Two Colorado libraries have had to close within a month to clean up contamination caused by methamphetamines.

Englewood city officials shut down its library on Wednesday after they received test results confirming the presence of contamination in the building’s restrooms, CBS News reports.

City spokesman Chris Harguth said the levels of methamphetamine detected in the bathrooms exceed the state’s safety thresholds.

Some countertops in the library also tested high for contamination, and will require special cleaning, the city spokesman told the broadcaster. Walls, ductwork, and exhaust fans will also require specialized cleaning.

The city of Englewood decided to test its facility after another library in Boulder closed due to similar contamination.

Because libraries are one of the few indoor public spaces that exist in the US, they have been forced to walk a fine line between maintaining their accessibility and ensuring a clean and safe environment for visitors.

Raymond Garcia of the American Library Association told CBS News that, thus far, the only libraries that have closed due to methamphetamine contamination are the pair in Colorado.

Mr Garcia declined to comment on whether or not drug use has increased in libraries, citing a lack of current data on the subject.

Mr Harguth said that secondary exposure to methamphetamine contamination is not believed to cause any long-term ailments, though it can be a temporary irritant that causes itchy throats, runny noses, and bloodshot eyes.

The library’s director, Christina Underhill, noted that during cold weather months, the facility sees an uptick of individuals experiencing homelessness as well as individuals abusing drugs, though she said that the latter is a small number of visitors.

"We’re very accommodating," she told CBS News. "There are some individuals who abuse this space and unfortunately put us in this position."

The Englewood library hired additional security last year after receiving complaints that visitors did not feel safe in the building, and increased its funding to add more staff to help curb potential drug use inside the facility.