Cleaning up a drug den in Kent
Rapid Environmental Services were called in to clean up and deal with a suspected drug den at a derelict building next to a railway station near Dartford which was about to be demolished as part of a refurbishment project.
Initially, the project was to clear up and remove pigeon guano within the building, however it soon became clear that the area was being used as a drug den which posed a significant safety risk to those on site.
Our experience in dealing with drug dens picked up the tell tale signs so we quickly initiated our sharps protocol and cordoned off the area for specialist attention and clearing before any further removal or demolition works could be carried out.
Sharps pose a significant threat of contamination and injury to workers and the public, so specialist techniques and methods must be used to ensure an area is cleared of potential danger. Sharps can be defined as anything from syringes, hypodermic needles, razor blades, knives and even broken glass and tin cans – basically anything used as drug taking paraphernalia.
Most suspected drug dens are dark, filthily and extremely unpleasant, so the challenge is to identify and locate all and every potentially dangerous object, remove the item and dispose of safely. This work requires the utmost concentration and extreme care as one false move or mistake can mean being stuck with a contaminated item, so this work is extremely high risk.
When sharps are involved, safety is our prime concern both for our staff and for the public in general so the area is cordoned off and all access is restricted to the area. Only staff specifically trained in needle sweep techniques are permitted past the cordon until the area is declared safe to proceed.
The area in question is flooded with light to make identification of objects easier, but in most cases it is the needles and blades not seen that pose the real danger. These can be buried under debris, under discarded clothing and in chairs and mattresses often found in these areas. Furthermore, drug den users often defecate in the area too, adding to the potential of contamination and disease.
All items uncovered are identified and carefully removed, being placed in sharps disposal boxes for incineration. Only when all exposed risks are removed can the actual clean up begin. On a site like this, nothing can be touched by unprotected hands, so the use of tongs and other hand tools to pick items up are used. Any other suspected items are flagged for specialist attention and removal until the area is cleared.
Once all debris and waste matter is removed, the area is disinfected and a final clean can take place. Once inspected, the area is declared clean and free of danger so work can begin again.
Once the area was declared safe by our onsite manager, workers entered the site knowing all contamination and danger from sharps has been neutralized. In this case, the demolition team could get on with the task in hand.