Anhydrous Ammonia Leak raises Methamphetamine Awareness

Anhydrous Ammonia Leak raises Methamphetamine Awareness

by Jennifer Kuzma

jennifer [at]

Near the Alafia River, residents returned to the town of Riverview after a long week away and a narrow escape from an ammonia leak. According to authorities, a 16-year-old boy was badly burned when he drilled into a pipe causing an anhydrous ammonia leak. He told authorities he drilled into the pipe in search of hidden money. With chemical burns on 18% of his body, the 16-year-old boy has a long painful road to recovery ahead of him. Also, four firefighters suffered from respiratory issues resulting from the ammonia leak.

The Tampa Pipeline Corp. has confirmed that the leak was anhydrous ammonia that is not to be confused with ammonia solutions used as cleaning products.

Tampa attorney, Morris Weinberg Jr. is representing the 16-year-old boy and his family. Authorities have not confirmed the details of charges against the boy. According to Tampa Pipeline Corp., they will not be seeking restitution from the teenager.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, said in a statement Wednesday “A simple act of vandalism by teenage boys affected so many people.” He also spoke in reference to the dangers of potential terrorist activity. John Kuzma, a local resident working in the construction industry said, “It opens your eyes to a lot of dangers in the community, but there is only so much you can do to safeguard. You can’t live life by what you’re scared of… ”

Very often there is little understanding of the dangers of anhydrous ammonia. Simply inhaling it can cause damage to the lungs. According to the CDC, if you are exposed to anhydrous ammonia, immediately flush the exposed body area(s) with water for at least 15 minutes. Seek medical attention immediately after emergency first aid treatment.


In Illinois, the State Police have issued alerts about anhydrous ammonia thefts recommending farmers delay delivery of the tanks, lock up their tanks and keep them out of sight. Stacey Creasy, Editor of the Daily Review Atlas in Monmouth, Illinois, wrote an article on October 29th stating, “There are a number of concerns when it comes to stealing anhydrous ammonia. The thieves could rupture the gas tank, or cause the tank to leak, leaving everyone in the immediate vicinity at risk.”

The following cases have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

In February 2002, nearly 150 gallons of anhydrous ammonia were leaked at a plant in Alabama during an unsuccessful attempted theft.
In October 2003, anhydrous ammonia was leaked during an attempted theft at an agricultural facility in Missouri. A firefighter and a police officer both suffered respiratory issues as a result of the leak.
In Washington during April 2004, 1,500 pounds of anhydrous ammonia were leaked at a cold storage plant during a botched theft attempt. The thieves broke off the valve of a 6,100-gallon tank causing the leak.
Why would these thieves risk their lives to steal this most dangerous and explosive element? Because anhydrous ammonia is often used for the production of methamphetamine. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Meth is a drug that duplicates or tricks the brain into releasing massive amounts of dopamine. Eventually the body shuts down producing dopamine which means no matter how much meth someone smokes, injects or snorts, they will feel no high. Scientific studies are underway to determine whether or not brain damage is reversible or not.

Referencing a documentary by National Geographic, Lisa Ling says that 12 million Americans say they’ve tried meth at least once. As you watch the documentary, people under meth influence appear hyperactive, delusional, ill and psychotic. Despite the risks of permanent brain damage, addiction is a powerful force to fight. As many as 92% of meth users relapse after treatment.

The damage caused by meth is more than skin deep. According to the American Dental Association, meth mouth is a term describing the loss of teeth a due to dry mouth, poor oral hygiene and many other factors.

Over 26 million people have tried meth worldwide. It’s a global epidemic and it will continue to grow if there is a lack of education about the danger.

“CRYSTAL METH. THE KILLER DRUG. You wore me out, that is no doubt. You kept me high, I couldn’t say goodbye.” These were the last words by Austin Hesse who passed away on August 24, 2006. His family created a memorial to spread the word of the devastating effects of addiction.

6 thoughts on “Anhydrous Ammonia Leak raises Methamphetamine Awareness”

  1. Thanks for posting the story. There are a couple of developments since I broke the story. The press is still maintaining that the boys were looking for “hidden treasure”… Supposedly, the boys overheard a woman talking about money buried there. Ok. The key word is buried. If it was buried wouldn’t the boy be using a shovel and digging in the dirt?? Also, how did he think he was going to get the money out thru a quarter inch drill hole?? Was he going to use tweezers? Anyway, I found your blog very informative. I wish the press was a little more open to an opportunity to create awareness about serious issues like drug abuse and theft of materials for drug production. It could have been a real opportunity to educate the public on dangerous chemicals. Also, it might deter other users of meth to see the dangerous outcome of messing with chemicals… chemical burns, jail, etc. Instead they glamorize the kids as treasure hunters. If the kids were poverty stricken I guarantee the press would have made an example out of them. Again, I’m not saying anywhere in the article that the kids were definitely trying to steal the chemicals to make meth. It would have been an opportunity by the local press for awareness. They explore other concepts such as terrorism. Although I believe that is more remote, but they took a shot at creating awareness of the dangers of terrorism. Why not take a look at the dangers of meth production?? Oh I forgot. The press runs most stories from the Washington Post, New York Times, and other AP sources. If there are more than 10 bylines by local writers I’d die of shock. So I continue to write quietly as a freelance writer. Thanks for blogs like yours!! I’ll continue to check in now and again in the future.

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