Friday, March 19, 2004

New Southwest Landmark
alarms block ammonia theft

By David Eck
Enquirer contributor

PLEASANT PLAIN - New security measures recently stopped thieves who may have been after anhydrous ammonia at a farm fertilizer plant in this Warren County community, authorities said.

Thieves hit the Southwest Landmark plant about 10 days ago, but were thwarted by a new alarm system, said John Burke, commander of the Warren Clinton Drug Task Force.

Southwest Landmark has been targeted more than 20 times by thieves seeking to siphon the ammonia, which is a main ingredient in methamphetamine and used in making fertilizer.

"There is obviously an alarm system up and a fence almost totally up," Burke said. "(Thieves) made entry onto the property but tripped the alarm."

The increased security comes after about 520 gallons of anhydrous ammonia leaked in an attempted theft on Feb. 18. The release left a toxic cloud over Pleasant Plain for several hours and forced the evacuation of about 300 people.

No arrests had been made Thursday in either attempted theft.

Authorities who urged company officials to secure the plant after the February leak said they were pleased with the new measures.

"I think it's going to go a long way in solving this problem at Southwest Landmark," Burke said.

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