Sep 28, 2007

Meth Ingredient Stolen From Water Plant

Dunn Police are investigating an incident in which someone stole a chemical used to make methamphetamine from the city's water treatment plant.

Dunn Police Capt. Tony Strickland said the chemical anhydrous ammonia was stolen from the plant around 3:45 yesterday morning. An employee was making his rounds and discovered a small gas cylinder lying near the plant's large anhydrous ammonia tank.

"He went and called the police," Capt. Strickland said. "And when he returned, the tank was gone."

The employee also reported the smell of the pungent gas and was later treated at Betsy Johnson Regional Hospital for difficulty breathing and later released, Capt. Strickland said.

Maintenance supervisor Scott Hardee said he estimated approximately 3 pounds of the chemical was stolen.

"He (the employee) started smelling it up here on the catwalk and at that distance, it would have to be a quite substantial leak," he said. "When you put that in liquid form, that's a good amount of ammonia."

A similar theft also occurred at the Dunn Water Plant in March of 2005.

Police at the time said the suspect had allegedly stolen the chemical from the plant several times over the course of eight months.

The man, Darrell Glover of Dunn, was charged with misdemeanor possession of a methamphetamine precursor.

Capt. Strickland declined to say if police had a suspect in this latest theft.

Anhydrous ammonia is used legitimately for many industrial processes and is also used as a fertilizer on farms. But the chemical is valued in meth-making circles as a necessary chemical in certain processes for making the drug.

Mr. Hardee said he has been told by drivers who deliver the chemical that it can fetch between $900 to $1,200 a pound on the black market.

Mr. Hardee said the chemical is used at the water treatment plant to enhance the disaffection process and possesses no public health threat.