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Hillsborough County Fla--Ammonia Leak Force Evacuation

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  • Hillsborough County Fla--Ammonia Leak Force Evacuation

    A 6" underground Anhydrous Ammonia Pipeline ruptured early Tuesday Morning in Southeastern Hillsborough County. It was discovered around 7AM as a passing motorist noticed the cloud and called the Fire Department.

    The leak and ensuing cloud forced the evacutation of 2000 school children. News footage taken from the air showed the large cloud as its plume spread over the area on Fishhawk Blvd in an area east of US 301 and South of Hiwhway 60. In-place protection was used for a nearby subdivision of 1200 homes.

    Nearly 100 firefighters rotated through the emergency using hoselines to help disperse the vapors. Yesterday's temperatures cause a great deal of concern for the safety of personnel due to heat exhaustion.

    The two schools that were evacuated remain closed today as do some of the roads in the area.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  • #2
    Investigators: "Breach was NOT Accidental!"

    ST PETERSBURG TIMES--Hillsborough County

    Breach in pipeline may be attempt to get drug part
    Police suspect someone trying to make a synthetic drug caused the ammonia gas leak. "These fools will try anything."

    By TAMARA LUSH, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 29, 2003

    TAMPA - After the cloud of anhydrous ammonia gas lifted and the acrid chemical smell was at tolerable levels, authorities inspected a broken pipeline in eastern Hillsborough County Wednesday.

    What they discovered was shocking: Someone had tried to crack open the pipe, sending the noxious odor into the air. Officers found abandoned tools at the site of the leak.

    Hillsborough County investigators said the person who tampered with the pipe was likely trying to siphon the ammonia in order to make methamphetamine, a synthetic and highly addictive drug.

    It is also likely that the person was injured by the pressurized ammonia, they said.

    "The person will most likely have tell-tale evidence, such as burns to the face, a mild to severe respiratory illness," said sheriff's Chief Deputy David Gee. "I would expect this person to be injured."

    Gee said authorities do not see any connection between the pipeline break and terrorism.

    Nearly 50 tons of anhydrous ammonia seeped from the pipe, authorities said. The toxic gas chemically blackened trees and plants in the area.

    The chemical is so strong that even after the pipe had been capped and the ammonia dissipated, the area still smelled as if a tidal wave of household cleaner had washed over. Dead armadillos and snakes lay beneath the scorched foliage.

    Because authorities were worried that the smell would sicken anyone in the area, 2,000 schoolchildren in two nearby schools were evacuated Tuesday, and residents in the 1,200-home FishHawk Ranch subdivision were told to stay indoors with their windows shut. A portion of FishHawk Boulevard was closed for more than a day while firefighters tried to dissipate the chemical.

    The leak was discovered about 7 a.m. Tuesday.

    Children at the two schools - Bevis Elementary and Randall Middle School - were bused to other schools Wednesday. Residents were given the all-clear and the road opened up.

    Whoever tampered with the pipe had to break into a cement box that housed a small portion of the 26-mile long pipe. Anhydrous ammonia is piped from Port Sutton to a factory in Polk County, where it is used to make fertilizer.

    The owner of the pipe, Tampa Pipeline, said it has not had any problems with tampering. The company owns two ammonia pipelines in Florida, and officials with the phosphate industry say there are less than a dozen around the nation. But anhydrous ammonia theft by illegal drug manufacturers is a national problem, with the chemical being stolen from farms, factories and other sources.

    Detectives who have investigated methamphetamine cases weren't surprised by the brazen break-in.

    "These fools will try anything," said David Waller, a special agent supervisor with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's drug and money laundering squad. "They will go to any lengths to get the ingredients, particularly if they are high on the drug."

    Waller, who helped organize a methamphetamine information conference in Tampa last July, said the drug is one of the most widely abused in the country.

    Central Florida has scores of meth users and manufacturers, he said. The Polk Sheriff's Office estimated last year that its deputies seize a meth lab once every 90 days.

    The drug is widely used in rural areas, especially since one of its main ingredients - anhydrous ammonia - is used in fertilizer production. Polk is a phosphate mining and fertilizer production center for the state.

    According to an EPA fact sheet, one gallon of anhydrous ammonia sells for $300 on the black market. Only a small amount of the chemical is needed to make a batch of methamphetamine.

    Anhydrous ammonia is stored as a liquid under pressure. When it is released into the environment, it becomes a toxic gas.

    Inhalation of the chemical causes severe respiratory problems, including lung injuries and death. The substance is also corrosive and can burn skin. It can cause blindness.

    Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant and causes confusion, severe anxiety and paranoia. The drug comes in pill form, powder and chunks.

    Deputies blamed methamphetamine use last year in the case of a man arrested in the east coast Florida town of Mims after he went into a rage and pulled out three of his wife's teeth with his hands.

    As Tampa Pipeline workers repaired the broken pipe and prepared to bring the flow of ammonia back on-line, Hillsborough sheriff's deputies combed the nearby woods for more evidence - or for the body of the person who tried to open the pipe.

    Gee speculated that the would-be thief may have even been blinded by the gas and said that deputies are also monitoring local emergency rooms for anyone with telltale burns or injuries.

    "He would not have been successful because the ammonia was under extremely high pressure," said Gee. "There would have been no way to breach that line or siphon off the product."

    - Anyone with information about the ammonia pipe tampering should call CrimeStoppers at (800) 873-TIPS.

    - Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report, which also uses information from Florida Today.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.


    • #3
      Update--Leak Raises Safety Concerns

      St. Petersburg Times--Hillsborough County

      Breach in pipeline stirs safety concerns

      Communities need to be more aware of the toxic substances that pass through in pipelines, officials say.

      By JANET ZINK, Times Staff Writer
      © St. Petersburg Times
      published June 1, 2003

      BRANDON - Every day, thousands of people go about their business on busy Bloomingdale Avenue in Brandon, unaware that toxic liquids flow just beneath the surface, past their businesses, past their homes.

      They drive, work and shop while a six-inch pipeline buried three feet below the ground carries deadly anhydrous ammonia to companies in Polk County that mix the liquid with other chemicals to make fertilizer.

      The pipeline, built in 1981, was in place long before many of the people, which raises the question: Is it foolish to build homes along pipe routes?

      Federal officials think so.

      In the past three years, they've increased pipeline safety staff by 50 percent and have hired educators to steer builders away from pipe routes. Hillsborough, like many counties, doesn't consider hazardous materials when permitting new subdivisions.

      "Our big concern is that communities are not really adequately aware of the pipelines that pass through them," said Jim Mitchell, director of public affairs for the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety.

      Homes and businesses built close to pipelines carrying hazardous materials are, he said, "accidents waiting to happen."

      Tuesday proved that.

      A damaged pipeline discovered around 7 a.m. near FishHawk Boulevard emitted a pungent cloud of ammonia gas. Authorities think the pipe was damaged when someone tried to break into it to get to the ammonia, a key ingredient in the production of methamphetamine, an illegal drug.

      The leak forced evacuation of 2,000 students from Bevis Elementary School and Randall Middle School. FishHawk Boulevard was closed for several hours, and nearby residents, including those in the 1,200-home FishHawk Ranch subdivision, were told to stay inside with their windows shut until the afternoon. No humans were hurt, but the leak killed wildlife and blackened trees and plants.

      It could have been worse.

      The ammonia travels in liquid form, but if released into the air it becomes a gas that irritates skin and lungs and can cause death.

      Accidents are infrequent but possible, Mitchell said.

      Tampa Pipeline Corp. owns three Bay area pipelines. Two, including the one that was damaged earlier this week, ship ammonia from the Port of Tampa to fertilizer plants in Polk County. A third carries jet fuel more than 10 miles along West Shore Boulevard from Port Tampa to Tampa International Airport.

      Additionally, the 200-mile Central Florida Pipeline ships gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from the Port of Tampa to Orlando International Airport. It's owned by Houston-based Kinder Morgan, which operates 35,000 miles of hazardous material and natural gas pipeline in the United States.

      Last year, Hillsborough County school officials mapped pipelines that approach county schools and developed an emergency plan. Mark Hart, the school district spokesman, said the relocation of Bevis and Randall students went smoothly because of that plan.

      In December 2002, Congress passed the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act, which tightens regulation of pipelines and increases fines for violations.

      Under the tougher law, pipeline owners must prioritize maintenance near population centers.

      They must be alert to presence of water supplies and environmentally sensitive areas.

      Industry officials say pipelines are the safest way to move hazardous materials.

      Tampa Bay Pipeline's two ammonia lines carry 4,500 tons of ammonia each day from the Port of Tampa to Polk County, a job that would require 225 tanker trucks.

      "Would you want to meet that many trucks a day carrying ammonia?" Howell said. "Look at how many wrecks we have on I-75 with trucks involved."
      09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
      IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
      "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
      BMI Investigator
      The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.


      • #4
        Follow Up Story

        St. Petersburg Times--Hillsborough

        Vulnerable pipelines ferry toxic threat
        Officials study safety for twin pipes between Hillsborough and Polk counties. One chink could send up anhydrous ammonia in a deadly mist.

        By CHUCK MURPHY, Times Staff Writer
        © St. Petersburg Times
        published June 29, 2003

        For 34 hours, teams of firefighters worked in shifts, sweating beneath protective suits as they poured more than 600,000 gallons of water on an ammonia leak in eastern Hillsborough County.

        When they finally knocked down the cloud on May 28, they discovered that the source was a pipeline breach no bigger than a penny.

        "That's the thing about this. In the big picture, it wasn't a big leak," said Ron Rogers, special operations chief for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. "The hole was very small."

        But the amount of time and effort needed to close that hole was a pointed reminder: While anthrax, smallpox, radioactive "dirty bombs" and the Crystal River nuclear power plant have received much of the post-Sept. 11 attention locally, one of the most realistic threats may be just 3 feet beneath Tampa's fast-growing suburbs.

        At any given second, two 6-inch pipelines carrying anhydrous ammonia to Polk County from tanks on Tampa Bay hold nearly a million pounds of the toxic liquid, which is used to make fertilizer.

        When a pipeline is breached, that liquid turns to gas and expands 900 times, creating a cloud like the one that hovered near the 1,200-home FishHawk Ranch development on the morning of May 27, forcing the closure of two nearby schools for two days.

        Though the ammonia smell gives plenty of warning of the cloud's movement, it can be toxic to people or animals who can't or don't seek shelter before getting enveloped.

        "The incident demonstrated the vulnerability of pipelines to attacks by terrorists or to vandalism," according to Fire Rescue's review of the incident. "We were fortunate that the incident occurred in a lightly populated area away from major roads."

        The 60-ton release was probably caused by an illegal methamphetamine producer trying to secure a key ingredient for the drug.

        In the aftermath, fire, domestic security, environmental and pipeline company officials are reviewing the safety of the 30-mile lines leading from tanks at the Port of Tampa and Port Sutton.

        Some of what they found has surprised them:

        Though the pipelines and tanks have long been cited as a potential target of terrorists, valve boxes like the one broken into on May 27 were protected by simple padlocks and chains that were easily cut. The pipeline owner, Tampa Bay Pipeline Co., planned last week to begin installing tougher materials to guard the boxes.

        Despite the volatile potential of the ammonia, fire officials and other emergency workers have to consult two maps if they want to see the routes of both ammonia pipelines.

        While water is the only practical, effective way to disperse an anhydrous ammonia cloud, the pipelines stretch along parts of rural Hillsborough County without accompanying hydrants for firefighters to use. The May 27 breach forced firefighters to drag hoses nearly a mile from the nearest hydrant.

        Those problems, and others, are likely to be fixed in the coming weeks. But concerns will remain about the potential danger of a larger, intentional breach closer to Tampa, or along one of Brandon's busy roads.

        "That would be a problem," said Glenn D. Howell, general manager of the two companies that operate the pipelines. "It sure would."

        Crops and lawns
        Florida, particularly the four corners area where Hillsborough, Polk, Hardee and Manatee counties meet, has a lot of phosphate.

        But to turn it into some types of fertilizer for crops and lawns, it must be combined with anhydrous ammonia.

        The ammonia supplies key ingredients to help plants grow - but it comes at a price.

        Used improperly, anhydrous ammonia can be dangerous, even deadly. The word anhydrous means "without water." When the chemical escapes from a pipeline and instantly turns from liquid to vapor, it quickly attaches to water sources, including human airways.

        It burns skin and causes swelling in the lungs and airways. Inhaling too much of the vapor will cause death.

        The Port of Tampa has been taking deliveries of anhydrous ammonia from ships for at least 30 years. Until the first pipeline was built in 1979, it was shipped by rail or truck to the phosphate plants, and some small customers still get shipments by rail or truck. The second pipeline went on line in 1981.

        Most agree that the pipelines are safer than tankers or rail cars. But they still are subject to accidental breaches from backhoes or other construction equipment, vandalism or terrorism.

        Records at the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission indicate there have been three documented leaks from the pipeline or pumping stations since they opened. The largest of those was a 50-gallon leak in 1997, caused when a valve failed, according to the records.

        The U.S. Department of Transportation, which regulates pipeline safety, fined the company that owns the pipelines $4,000 in 1998 after inspections found some flaking paint and corrosion on the pipeline. The company received another warning letter, but no fine, in 1999 after corrosion was found during an inspection.

        Most disaster plans anticipate any problems with ammonia to occur either in the tanks on Tampa Bay or on one of the ships bringing it in.

        The Coast Guard does not allow other boats or ships to come within 1,000 yards of anhydrous ammonia tankers, or within 100 yards of moored ammonia tankers. Additionally, the port has increased security around the tanks, which can hold as much as 295-million pounds of the chemical.

        "We use a multitiered approach to security," said Mike Monahan, spokesman for IMC, one of the largest tank owners at Port Sutton. "We don't really discuss it."

        A dense cloud
        The temperature was minus 5 in Minot, N.D., at 1:39 a.m. on Jan. 18, 2002. A Canadian Pacific Railway train pulling 15 tank cars of anhydrous ammonia derailed. Seven cars overturned and burst.

        As soon as the 1.6-million pounds of ammonia hit the air, they turned into a cloud 5 miles long and more than 2 miles wide.

        The mist spread across the homes of 15,000 people outside Minot, and most never noticed. That probably saved their lives as the cloud passed harmlessly while they slept.

        But John Grabinger heard the explosion and began to smell the gas. He and his wife decided to make a run for it.

        In the dense cloud, Grabinger, 38, couldn't see where he was going and drove his truck into a neighbor's garage. He stumbled away, was overcome and died in the driveway.

        "He was a very good friend of mine," said Thom Mellum, director of emergency management for Ward County, N.D. "He just panicked and tried to get out. I don't think he had a chance."

        Grabinger's wife made it to a neighbor's house and survived. She was one of about a thousand people treated for injuries ranging from irritated lungs to severe burns. No one else was killed.

        There's no way to accurately determine how many injuries could have been prevented in Minot that night, but Mellum said communications breakdowns probably put more people in jeopardy than necessary.

        For starters, the local radio station had no one on duty to broadcast bulletins warning residents to stay put. Mellum's staff had to search the phone book for radio station employees until they found someone to go in and interrupt the automated programming.

        Although it had been discussed for years, Minot also had no reverse 911 system using computers to call residents in the affected area with safety instructions. As a result, the 911 system was flooded by calls from panicked residents, contributing to delays in dispatching rescue workers.

        Mellum has spent more than a year picking through the accident and the response to it. He has some advice for his counterparts in Hillsborough.

        "Be vigilant in informing the public about what to do," Mellum said. "Shelter in place. Get them to stay where they are. Communication is the key."

        A volatile issue
        Communication poses a dilemma for Hillsborough County.

        On one hand, telling people about the anhydrous ammonia at the ports and the two pipelines provides information they could use in case of an accident or a terrorist attack.

        On the other, a campaign to inform the public might help terrorists or drug dealers find the pipelines. Regulations already require the lines to be well marked by signs that say WARNING in bright red letters and describe the anhydrous ammonia below.

        "It's a highly volatile issue," said Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Lt. Rod Reder. "We prefer that people don't know about this and that things like this don't get publicized. Before this (breach) happened, most people didn't know about this pipeline and most didn't need to know."

        Many residents on Davis Islands have known about the tanks for years.

        That's because the massive storage facilities, and the ships bringing ammonia up the bay, represent a daily safety threat to everyone there - and everyone at Tampa General Hospital.

        Sirens have been installed on the island, ready to blare if a tank leaks. If there is an incident at the port, telephones would ring in every home alerting residents to stay indoors until the cloud passes. The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council has put together brochures and a video on the dangers of anhydrous ammonia.

        There are no such programs for residents or commuters along the pipeline routes, and no plans to start them. For one thing, no one is sure whether an education campaign would make any difference.

        "I don't know about you, but I don't even answer my phone at home any more," said Larry Gispert, Hillsborough's director of emergency management. "I can use the television and radio to tell the people who are watching television or listening to the radio. But I have no way, really, of notifying 1-million people."

        At the pipeline company, Howell notes that a series of check and block valves along each line should cut the amount of a potential release down to a maximum of 30 tons.

        But the May release was so gradual it apparently didn't fully trigger the valves or alarms, allowing an estimated 60 tons to escape.

        Even 30 tons of ammonia would be enough to cause major problems if the wind blew it toward a populated area.

        "Luckily the wind was blowing the right direction that day," said Reder. "A 20 mph wind blowing south would have put it on the subdivision (FishHawk Ranch) in a matter of minutes."

        Howell pledged to work with Hillsborough County officials to make the pipelines more secure. Though the lines comply with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, he's even willing to listen to the county's suggestion to add more valves or alarms to reduce the size of a potential release.

        But the ammonia is necessary to make fertilizer. And the fertilizer is necessary to raise crops.

        As the people in Minot will attest, pipelines are safer than trains. Anything is safer than a parade of tanker trucks rolling down Interstate 4 from Tampa.

        There is only so much that can be done, Howell said.

        "If they can steal an airplane and fly it into the twin towers, there's no telling what they could come up with," Howell said. "What are you going to do?"

        What is anhydrous ammonia?
        Anhydrous ammonia is a hazardous chemical used in the manufacture of fertilizer, explosives, textiles and other products. In order to pump it from Tampa to Polk County, the ammonia is kept at 800 pounds per square inch, which keeps it in liquid form. But if that pipeline is breached, the chemical becomes a gas again, forming a choking cloud that can cause severe burns or swelling of the airways, resulting in death. If there is an ammonia leak, people nearby should stay indoors, turn off air conditioners and place wet towels along the bottoms of doors to fortify the seals. Wait until the all-clear is given.
        09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
        IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
        "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
        BMI Investigator
        The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.


        • #5
          Another thing about Anhydrous Ammonia to remember is that although it is classified in the North American Response Guide and placarded as a "non-flammable" gas, it can and will ignite with explosive force when in a confined space. A material can be classified/placarded as "non-flammable" if it is "difficult to ignite".

          A couple of hazmat techs were killed some years ago when they entered a facility where a commercial freezer had released the ammonia that it used for the refrigerant into the building. They failed to recognize the potential for flammability, and entered without flash protection. This is a very good example of why we have to read the entire MSDS and other research materials for any released product we deal with. There may very well be some small detail to come back and take a major bite outta your arse if you don't.

          There are other issues relevent to the theft of ammonia as well. The theft of ammonia is a real problem in Ohio, and we are seeing the liquid being transported in propane tanks for gas grills. The problem is that the ammonia reacts with the brass valve. If you see a propane tank where the valve is corroded with a blue green crud on it, don't mess with the valve. It could potentially blow out of the tank with extreme force causing serious injury. The following blast of anhydrous isn't gonna be a picnic for you either.

          I have a picture of one of these things that I'll post if I can find it.
          Steve Gallagher
          IACOJ BOT
          "I don't apologize for anything. When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes


          • #6
            Suspect in Pipeline Damage Arrested

            St. Peteresburg Times--Hillsborough County

            Burns a clue in pipeline arrest
            Investigators say a Valrico man hid his injuries, weapons and the state's largest methamphetamine operation.

            By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER, Times Staff Writer
            © St. Petersburg Times
            published July 3, 2003

            VALRICO - Investigators who arrived at the home of Richard Erick Hansen Jr. on June 20 had only a tip that Hansen was making methamphetamine.

            Two days later, officials say, they had enough evidence to accuse him of operating the largest meth-producing operation in Florida.

            But it was the chemical burns over Hansen's arms and legs that led sheriff's investigators to arrest him in connection with the May 28 breach of an underground pipeline carrying anhydrous ammonia through southeastern Hillsborough.

            Officials declined to discuss why they waited more than a week to announce that they had made an arrest in the pipeline case, but said the investigation is ongoing and more arrests are expected.

            Investigators said they think the 29-year-old Hansen, also charged with carrying guns and stealing electricity from Tampa Electric Co., not only was cooking methamphetamine out of his Valrico mobile home, but had a lab in Thonotosassa and was even making the addictive drug from his girlfriend's car.

            Soon after the 6-inch pipeline ruptured and sent a white cloud of ammonia gas floating over FishHawk Ranch and Randall Middle School, investigators said they suspected a drug producer or user broke into the line to steal anhydrous ammonia.

            Anhydrous ammonia is combined with phosphate to make fertilizer, but it's also a key ingredient in making methamphetamine, known on the street as crank, crystal and meth. Anhydrous means "without water." When the chemical is released into the air, it turns from liquid to vapor and clings to water sources - human air passages included. The vapor burns skin, and people who inhale too much of the vapor can die.

            Police said right after the breach that the suspect in the May 28 incident likely had serious burns from the pressurized ammonia.

            When they arrested Hansen last month, he had "obvious burns to his arms and legs" and evidence of recent respiratory problems, said Hillsborough sheriff's Chief Deputy David Gee. Hansen did not seek medical treatment for the burns, even though he needed it, Gee said.

            "We've recovered other evidence we believe links him to that" pipeline breach, Gee said. He did not elaborate. Hansen faces six felony and misdemeanor counts. If convicted, he could be sent to prison for the rest of his life. He is charged with two counts of making methamphetamine, two counts of possessing a firearm, one count of possessing an explosive device and one count of stealing electricity.

            Gee said Wednesday that the case is being pursued by both the State Attorney's and U.S. Attorney's offices.

            State Attorney Mark Ober said he will meet soon with federal officials to determine how to pursue the case.

            "It's silly to waste resources and have two jurisdictions pursuing the same case," Ober said.

            The announcement of Hansen's arrest came a day after a Florida law took effect that makes it a felony to steal anhydrous ammonia. It can't apply to Hansen because the breach occurred before the law took effect.

            Makings of a lab
            On the afternoon of June 20, sheriff's deputies went to Hansen's home after a relative, whose name is being withheld, called to complain that Hansen was making harassing phone calls. The relative also said Hansen made methamphetamine from his Valrico home, which is tucked at the back of a large lot on quiet Stearns Road.

            After a call to TECO showed the utility company supplies no electricity to the home, deputies discovered Hansen was stealing electricity by tapping into a line running over the property, according to a DEA affidavit.

            While investigating the utility pole, sheriff's officials found a wooden shed behind the mobile home filled with almost 160, 20-ounce plastic bottles with tubing and salt at the bottom. They're commonly used as gas generators in the production of methamphetamine.

            The next day, DEA agents searched the home and found a laundry list of illegal items, and seemingly innocuous substances that are nonetheless vital in making methamphetamine.

            Among the items seized during the search, according to a DEA affidavit: a .22-caliber rifle and an SKS semi-automatic rifle; more than 7,800 pseudoephedrine tablets, which are used to make methamphetamine; two propane cylinders commonly used to store anhydrous ammonia; 42 1-gallon containers of paint thinner, used to extract pseudoephedrine from pill casings; and 10 26-ounce containers of Morton salt, which is combined with sulfuric acid to generate hydrogen chloride gas in the final stages of methamphetamine production.

            The recent arrest isn't the first time Hansen has been in trouble.

            In 1993, a Hillsborough judge sentenced him to seven years in prison for grand theft and burglary, Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show. It's not clear how much of that time he served, but in April he was sentenced to one year of probation for possession of drug paraphernalia.

            Catherine Rouss doesn't know much about Hansen, who lives a few doors from the Stearns Road home she has occupied since 1973. But she never dreamed someone on her peaceful, tree-lined street would be involved in something illegal.

            "When I heard about this, it about made me break out in chills," she said Wednesday.

            Rouss' next-door neighbor, Gerry Cowles, said the prospect of anhydrous ammonia and other chemicals being stored and tinkered with near her home makes her nervous.

            "I have grandchildren, and that could have killed someone if it all blew up," she said. "I wonder what else is going on here. Makes you wonder, doesn't it? You just never can tell."

            -Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at 813 661-2443 or [email protected]
            09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
            IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
            "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
            BMI Investigator
            The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.


            • #7
              Suspect Indicted

              St. Petersburg Times--Hillsborough

              Feds indict man accused of tampering with pipeline
              By GRAHAM BRINK, Times Staff Writer
              © St. Petersburg Times
              published July 26, 2003


              TAMPA - A man arrested in connection with tampering with an underground ammonia pipe in the FishHawk Ranch area of Hillsborough County now faces a seven-count federal indictment.

              The indictment, unsealed Friday, accuses Richard Erick Hansen Jr., 29, of conspiracy to possess and manufacture methamphetamine as well as attempting to possess anhydrous ammonia, a chemical often used to manufacture methamphetamine.

              Hansen faces up to life in prison if convicted on all charges. He has been in jail since his arrest June 22.

              Hillsborough sheriff's deputies responded last month to a report that harassing phone calls were being made from Hansen's home, located at 2621 Stearns Road in Valrico, court records state. When deputies responded, they say they unearthed a meth lab in the home.

              Investigators said Hansen could cook up to a pound of methamphetamine in 24 hours. One ounce can fetch $1,200.

              Authorities said Hansen had chemical burns over his arms and legs - possible evidence that he tapped into the southeastern Hillsborough pipeline to steal ammonia.

              The breach of the pipeline sent a cloud of gas into the air, forcing the evacuation of surrounding schools.

              Anhydrous ammonia is combined with phosphate to make fertilizer, but is also a key ingredient in making methamphetamine.
              09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
              IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
              "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
              BMI Investigator
              The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.


              • #8
                Follow Up Story

                Tampa Tribune

                Pipeline Sabotage Prompts Steps To Prevent A Repeat

                By JIM SLOAN [email protected]
                Published: Sep 17, 2003

                TAMPA - Hillsborough County's biggest ammonia leak is history, and emergency officials vowed Tuesday they would do what they could to make sure that scary record is never broken.
                A man who deputies say was looking for raw materials to manufacture methamphetamine tapped into a pipeline carrying deadly anhydrous ammonia from Tampa to Polk County. The chemical is used in fertilizer processing. The resulting leak near Lithia- Pinecrest Road and FishHawk Boulevard sent 60 tons of the toxic gas into the air, spreading to a subdivision, shutting down two schools and killing trees and wildlife.

                In a system that's designed to deal with accidental leaks, ``This situation kind of hits a hole that's hard to fix,'' Ron Rogers, special operations chief for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, said.

                But emergency officials said they have started taking steps to prevent a repeat. Stronger chains and locks have been placed on the pipeline's valve boxes, and the location of the boxes will be mapped. According to published reports, no single map now shows the pipeline's entire route.

                Training for students and school officials on how to take shelter inside schools will continue. And within a year, a special additive may be available to make the piped ammonia useless to drugmakers.

                Authorities have arrested Richard Erick Hansen Jr., 29, of Valrico. He has been indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of attempting to possess anhydrous ammonia.

                Tuesday, about 50 residents turned out at Newsome High School to hear what is being done to prevent a repeat - and to give their own suggestions.

                ``Why don't we just consider shutting the pipeline down'' and trucking the ammonia, said Byron Dean of Brandon.

                Wade DeHate, division chief for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, said that despite the potential for vandalism, pipelines are much safer.

                One resident pointed out that many subdivisions along the pipeline's 30-mile route have no rear exit, leaving one way out if disaster strikes.

                ``That's a perfect example of when shelter-in-place would be called for,'' Rogers said.

                The pipeline owner, Tampa Bay Pipeline, has reimbursed the county for the $27,000 cost of fighting the leak, Rogers said.

                Others said pipeline workers should patrol the pipeline 24 hours a day to deter vandals.

                Workers check the pipe frequently, but an around-the- clock patrol would be impossible, said Glenn Howell, company general manager.

                Overall, few residents pointed fingers. Larry McLendon of FishHawk Trails drew applause when he commended firefighters for quickly and aggressively squelching the toxic plume.

                ``I hope we'll come up with some better ways to make sure this doesn't happen again but I think ... you did a great job.''

                Reporter Jim Sloan can be reached at (813) 259-7691.
                09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
                IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
                "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
                BMI Investigator
                The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.


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