The fertilizer plant in West, Texas, that exploded two weeks ago was a frequent target of theft from people seeking to acquire key ingredients for methamphetamines.
Local police responded to 11 reports of theft and five ammonia leaks in the past 12 years. Many of the leaks were linked to the drug.
Anhydrous ammonia, the main ingredient in fertilizer production and a potentially deadly element if inhaled, is used to make the highly popular drug. Drug manufacturers looking for inexpensive supplies often found West Fertilizer a great source for raw material.
The plant first reported theft in June 2001 when 105 pounds of anhydrous ammonia was stolen from storage tanks three nights in a row. The company installed a security system, though it generally wasn’t useful.
A year later a company manager reported four gallons of liquefied fertilizer was being exported from the plant every three days.
The last record of tampering occurred in October 2012, when employee Cody Dragoo was sent after hours to shut leaking valves.
Dragoo was later killed in the explosion.
Investigators are still pursuing the cause of the explosion, inquiring after some 100 leads, including a tip that there had been a fire earlier that day on the scene.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security declined to comment, though they neglected to evaluate the plant for over 30 years.