BUXTON (WGME) -- A pastor is pushing for change after a methamphetamine lab was discovered inside a Methodist church.
The I-Team got an exclusive look inside at the damage.
The Buxton United Methodist Church is unusually quiet these days because its congregation is displaced by a disturbing discovery.
"Very shocking," Pastor Lynn Briggs said.
Briggs said a local man turned their sacred space into a meth lab.
"Certainly nothing you would expect to happen in a house of worship in a little, country town," Briggs said.
Matthew Anderson is charged with unlawful operation of a methamphetamine laboratory, a class B felony.
Police say they found meth-making materials in a children's playroom.
"Everything had to go," Briggs said.
Four rooms in all had to be gutted, right down to the studs, because of the contamination left behind.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, exposure can cause nausea, headaches, confusion and breathing problems.
"This is very, very dangerous stuff," Briggs said. "I never knew the extent."
Briggs said the church hired professional cleaners, who found the HVAC system was contaminated, spreading it throughout most of the building.
"All of our hymnals, all of our Bibles, choir music, robes, anything like that. That all had to go," Briggs said.
She said they went above and beyond in the name of safety, but didn't have to do any of it.
"None of this was required. None of it. No," Briggs said.
The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency removes the manufacturing materials, then posts a notice, warning there could still be hazardous waste left behind. From there, it's up to the property owner.
"Just because the law says you don't have to do it, doesn't mean that it's right," Briggs said.
An I-Team investigation in 2017 revealed that while some states require testing and decontamination, Maine does not. At the time, a meth contaminated property could also be sold without telling the buyer.
About half of states have clean-up standards, including New Hampshire. Most set a legal limit for meth, so a property will be declared "decontaminated" when it's cleaned, and tests come back below that level.
Lawmakers expressed concern in 2017, but didn't take any action until recently.
"It scares the devil out of me," Rep. Donna Bailey, D-Saco, said.
Bailey chairs the Judiciary Committee, which approved a bill last spring to require disclosure in a real estate sale. A Sanford lawmaker sponsored the legislation because of a meth lab in her own neighborhood. That bill was signed into law.
"Perhaps they wiped down the counter, but how do you know those chemicals aren't left behind?" Bailey said. "And they're so toxic, especially to children."
Briggs wants lawmakers to go even further.
"After seeing this and going through this process, I realize the standard we currently have for clean-up ... we don't have one," Briggs said. "It's nonexistent and this is a hazardous material."
I-Team Reporter Marissa Bodnar asked Bailey if Maine should require some form of clean-up. "Yes," Bailey said.
Lawmakers are currently considering a bill, carried over from last session, that would require owners of rental properties to not only tell their tenants if a meth lab is discovered, but also perform testing and decontamination.
Bailey said it's a complicated issue.
"Not every lab uses the same chemicals, so how do you come up with standards for something that's far from standard?" Bailey said.
Briggs would like to see their hardship lead to change for the better. In the meantime, the congregation continues to worship somewhere else.
"Folks are missing their home," Briggs said. "There's no place like home."
Bailey said her committee has asked the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to look into establishing clean up standards. Bailey said they expect to hear back soon, but will then have to grapple with some of the policy decisions, like who would be required to foot the bill for, what can be, a very expensive process.