CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In two years, a state fund set up to help the victims of violent crimes has paid out $1.2 million to clean up West Virginia's meth mess.
Last year, the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Fund distributed $849,146 for methamphetamine lab cleanup costs, up from $378,404 in 2012, according to a Charleston Gazette analysis of Court of Claims data.
Out-of-state landlords who own meth-contaminated properties in West Virginia received more than $100,000 of those payouts for cleanup expenses since January 2012. Payments went to property owners in Kansas City, Mo.; Surfside Beach, S.C.; Arlington, Va.; and Cincinnati.
West Virginia is the only state that reimburses property owners for meth lab cleanup costs through a crime victims compensation fund.
"Meth labs are having a substantial financial impact across the state," said Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne. "The numbers are accelerating."
In 1981, state lawmakers set up the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Fund to help "victims of crime, particularly violent crime." The fund typically pays for crime victims' medical and funeral expenses.
Six years ago, as meth labs began to proliferate in West Virginia, the Legislature passed a law that allows property owners to file claims with the state to help pay for meth cleanup.
Perdue said the drain on the Crime Victims Compensation Fund should alarm all West Virginians -- even those in counties with no meth labs.
"There have been arguments represented this is a very localized problem," Perdu said. "Irrespective of whether a county has meth labs or not, its citizens are losing the opportunity to access victims fund monies because it's being depleted by meth lab claims. This is proof positive that it's a statewide issue for taxpayers."
The crime victims fund will only pay for cleanup expenses if landlords didn't know that meth was being manufactured on their properties. The program's purpose is to make rental properties livable again.
Initially, the fund paid $5,000 for cleanup costs. State lawmakers raised the reimbursement amount to $10,000 two years ago.
Since 2012, the fund has paid more than $668,000 directly to companies that specialize in meth cleanup, according to the Gazette's analysis.
Simon Environmental, a Jackson County company, collected $423,845 for cleanup expenses -- five times more than any other firm.