Boulder, Colorado, has closed its main public library due to methamphetamine contamination in the facility’s bathrooms and some seating areas, city officials say.
The library first closed on December 20 after “higher than acceptable methamphetamine levels were found in restroom air ducts,” according to a news release from the City of Boulder.
The city closed the library “out of an abundance of caution” and to conduct environmental testing, according to the release. Testing found meth residue inside airducts in the main library’s bathrooms. The testing was ordered based on “a spike in reports of individuals smoking in public restrooms over the past four weeks,” according to the release.
“This is truly a sad situation and represents the impact of a widespread epidemic in our country,” said library director David Farnan in the release. “The city is consulting with Boulder County Public Health officials and will take all steps necessary to prioritize safety. We are committed to transparency and appropriate remediation.”
Further testing confirmed that contamination was almost entirely limited to the public-facing bathrooms and “on the surfaces of the exhaust ducts in these enclosed spaces,” the city said in a December 28 news release.
In addition to contamination in the bathroom, there is also “a limited amount of surface contamination in a few discrete locations in highly trafficked seating areas in the south portion of the building,” according to the release.
The earliest the library could reopen to the public is January 3, according to the release. The city is still waiting on a final report from the environmental testing before city and health department officials will meet to discuss next steps. The city plans to release the exact test results within the next week, the release says. Several other library branches remain open.
The restrooms and seating areas affected will have to undergo “professional remediation” before they are made accessible to the public again, according to the release. The seating areas may be repurposed with furniture that can be cleaned regularly.
“It is not yet clear if, and when, public restrooms will be brought back,” the city said in the release.
Meth contamination usually occurs when individuals touch residue on surfaces directly, according to the release. The city noted that meth contamination regulations were developed particularly for contexts where continual exposure is likely, such as in buildings where people are manufacturing meth, not just using it.
“Episodic exposures, such as in public buildings, present much less threat to health,” the city said in the release.
2021 saw an increase in the number of deaths from methamphetamine usage in the United States, according to data from the CDC.