Cop headquarters awash with cocaine and meth
So much methamphetamine and cocaine is contaminating the Australian Federal Police Sydney headquarters that officers fear they could test positive for drug use.
The building is awash with illegal substances that have been sucked up from drug-testing labs and circulated through the airconditioning system.
A report is being prepared by an independent assessor, but drug lab experts said at the very least the AFP will have to replace the airconditioning system in the entire 11-storey building.
The contamination was discovered during a major anti-terror upgrade meant to improve safety of staff.
Work in the affected areas was immediately stopped and further assessment was carried out.
But while the AFP insists the risk of exposure is "very low", many of the 1000-plus staff are "on edge", fearing for their jobs if they test positive for drugs.
An AFP spokesman said: "No AFP Sydney members - including forensics officers in the concerned areas - have returned positive results for illegal narcotics in routine drug testing in the past 12 months.
"It is so low that it would not register on routine drug testing of AFP members.
"The AFP is awaiting a final report from an independent contractor, which will determine the full extent of the contamination.
"Further action will be undertaken depending on the outcome of this report."
That report was due on December 10 but has been returned to investigators to gather more details.
However, AFP Association president Angela Smith claims the official response has been too slow.
"Member safety and risks associated with exposure to illicit drugs is a real concern to us. No level of exposure is appropriate," Ms Smith said.
"We will be seeking an undertaking from the AFP that if any affected members return a positive drug test this exposure is taken into consideration during any internal investigation.
"We expect the AFP to respond immediately to the findings in the independent report."
Tonnes of illicit drugs pass through the Sydney AFP drug-testing labs every year and are routinely displayed to the media in the building.
The discovery of methamphetamine and cocaine traces throughout the Sydney AFP building has thrown fresh doubt on the dismissal of a former forensic officer.
The woman was found with traces of methamphetamine following a random urine test in 2014.
A subsequent investigation by the AFP's professional standards team cleared the Sydney drug analyst, who was based at the Goulburn St building.
She maintained she had not taken the methamphetamine but had ingested it via her role testing illicit drugs, according to a senior AFP officer.
"She was cleared by professional standards and the guy who investigated was a really good detective," the AFP officer, who did not want to be named, said.
"An industrial officer said that the lab was not up to standard.
"But a committee of senior officers decided that she was out. She was gagged from speaking because it was in the deed of release."
AFP officers are randomly tested about once every three years by a team of external civilians.
If the urine sample returns positive a further hair sample is obtained.
The AFP officer said recent confirmation of illicit substances throughout the building has raised the sacked officers' situation among colleagues.
"Everyone is now on edge that they have illicit substances in their system and that their jobs are going to be in danger," the officer said. "There has been precedent in this area."
An AFP spokesman said: "For privacy reasons it is not appropriate to comment on the circumstances of current or former AFP members."
The AFP recently installed 53 stainless steel bollards outside the building in Goulburn St, Surry Hills, at a cost of $130,000.
The contamination was discovered during the internal phase of the work.
Drug lab cleaning expert Ahmad Merhi said cleansing the building would involve using "high-efficiency particulate air vacuums" that capture all cocaine particles. The machine would then have to be incinerated.
"If it was just methamphetamine they could send a fog through the airconditioning and destroy the drug molecule," Mr Merhi, managing director of building rehabilitation company Living Fresh, said.
"But cocaine can't be broken down. To completely decontaminate they need to replace the whole airconditioning system."