County council has ordered a homeowner to put up a fence around what used to be Alberta’s biggest fentanyl lab, in order to protect the public.
Council voted unanimously Tuesday to uphold an order issued by county commissioner Peter Tarnawsky that required homeowner Phat Vuong to put up a chain link fence around #306 26023 Township Road 544, which is just west of the ProNorth Industrial Park.
Edmonton Police Services and the RCMP raided this home on July 5 and said it contained the biggest fentanyl pill production lab in Alberta. Alberta Health Services has ordered the home sealed until it is decontaminated.
In a letter to Vuong dated Aug. 15, Tarnawsky ordered Vuong (who owns and rents out the home in question) under the Municipal Government Act to put up a six-foot tall chain-link fence around it and to board up its windows by Aug. 30, as he judged the home to be a risk to the public.
Vuong appealed the order on Aug. 23.
County fire chief Pat Mahoney confirmed that Vuong had not fenced the house or boarded its windows as of Tuesday.
Vuong, speaking to council Tuesday, argued that the fence was unnecessary, as he lived across the street from it and expected AHS to approve the cleanup plan shortly. The house was also locked and had many notices from AHS about its risks plastered on it.
“The only people I think might get into it are people with ill intent,” he said.
But his position got little sympathy from councillors, many of whom spoke of the danger the house posed to the public.
Mahoney told council that fentanyl and its derivatives “are deadly” and could be anywhere on this site, and that a child throwing a rock at a window there could be exposed to the drugs. There was a legal risk to the county and a safety risk to the public if this site was not fenced off. AHS had also sent him an email Tuesday morning that said the “property should be fenced off or taped off” under any decontamination plan. Had he known what he knows now, he would have ordered the site fenced as soon as the cops left.
Coun. Susan Evans said that she had personally spoken with people who had walked up to the house to peer in its windows after the story hit the news, and told those people to never do so again due to the risk.
“If there’s even one minute sand grain (of fentanyl) on a window, they’re placing themselves and those around them in danger,” she said.
“If there’s product on the outside of that house in any fashion … it could be deadly.”
Coun. Ferd Caron said he was concerned about the home’s legal risk to the county, noting that young kids might not be able to read the warning signs on the house.
Coun. Jerry Kaup echoed his concerns, noting that the house had been used as a drug lab without Vuong’s knowledge despite the fact that he lived across the street. He was also surprised that the home had not been ordered demolished.
Coun. Wayne Bokenfohr noted that other communities generally put up fences around homes whenever similar crimes happen. It’s unfortunate that the cost of this fence will fall on the homeowner, but insurance should cover it.
Public safety is the top concern here, said Mayor Tom Flynn.
“I know there are children in the area there,” he said, and they aren’t going to read warning signs.
Vuong now has until noon on Sept. 19 to fulfil the county’s order. Failure to do so could lead to a $10,000 fine and/or a year in jail.
Vuong told the Gazette that he had asked MayKen HazMat Solutions (the company in charge of cleaning up the house) to put up a fence around the home as soon as possible.