JACKSONVILLE, Ill. (WICS) — Anhydrous ammonia is a chemical farmers use to fertilize fields before planting, but if it's in the wrong hands, the chemical can quickly become dangerous.
"If exposed to it, it freezes on contact," farmer and local business owner Ed Fox said. "If it's inhaled, it has immediate lung damage to it. And it is used in the production of meth."
Detectives at the Morgan County Sheriff's Department said ammonia tanks are usually left empty on the Jacksonville Brandt chemical plant. The one night a tank was half-full, thieves acted quickly.
"A hose was connected and commonly they'd use a garden hose to connect to a nurse tank on the valve to open the valve up and put the anhydrous into another container," Detective Jason Robertson said. "So that's what we had - a hose connected to a tank."
Detective said they're always concerned about meth production in the county, but this type of cooking is now somewhat rare.
"It's actually uncommon nowadays for this to happen, at least for us," Detective Robertson said. "The world's moving to ice, so it's a crystallized form of meth, and nine times out of 10 it's imported from another state or country."
Farmers said this is not the time of year farmers typically use this chemical, making them even more concerned over who took the ammonia.
"That is a concern; it makes you wonder if somebody knew that there was a tank that had been left there with some in it because in normal operation this time of year, they don't try to leave something like that on site where people can gain access to it," said Fox. " Yeah, it does cause concern."
If you have any information on the stolen chemical, you are asked to call Morgan County Crime Stoppers at (217) 243-7300.
Other suspicious signs that could indicate meth production include empty propane tanks on a property, especially if they are connected to hoses not hooked up to grills.