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Attempted theft at mining waste treatment site caused a substantial chemical leak
Jason Hudnall, of Malden, W.Va. was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. Hudnall, 36, previously pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to steal anhydrous ammonia and negligent release of anhydrous ammonia into the air. Hudnall’s co-defendant John Wesley Tucker, 48, of Georges Creek, W.Va., was sentenced to one year in prison and fined one thousand dollars after pleading guilty in October to conspiracy to steal anhydrous ammonia to be used to manufacture methamphetamine. Both sentences were handed down by United States District Court Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. in Charleston.
Anhydrous ammonia, an extremely hazardous chemical, is ammonia in a gaseous form that does not contain water. The chemical is generally used to treat mining runoff in waste water ponds. Anhydrous ammonia has also been sought by individuals as a component in the illegal production of methamphetamine.
During the scheme, Tucker, Hudnall and two other co-conspirators, used tools, including a battery-powered saw, to cut a security lock on a 1000-gallon storage tank containing anhydrous ammonia.
The co-conspirators also brought portable tanks onto the property to store and transport the stolen anhydrous ammonia. Tucker, Hudnall and two associates split a theft-prevention valve cover which caused anhydrous ammonia to leak into the air. As a result of the chemical exposure, the co-conspirators fled the scene and left the anhydrous ammonia storage tank valve open. Approximately 500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia leaked into the air. Emergency service units, including the Belle and Chesapeake Fire Departments, DuPont Chemical Company’s Hazardous Material Team, members of the West Virginia State Police, employees from Penn-Virginia Resources, and employees from Republic Mining, responded to the unsuspected leak.
The anhydrous ammonia leak also prompted the Kanawha County Office of Emergency Services to issue a shelter-in-place safety procedure as a precaution for nearby eastern Kanawha County residents.
Penn-Virginia Resources, owner of the damaged storage tank, lost approximately 2500 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at a cost of $1,725. The company also paid Mallard Environmental approximately $3,325 to clean up the area surrounding the damaged tank. DuPont Emergency Response Group also incurred approximately $1,800 in expenses as a result of the chemical leak.
Co-conspirator Mitchell Ray Workman, 34, of Chelyan, Kanawha County, W.Va., was previously sentenced in April to 2 ½ years in prison for his role in the conspiracy to steal anhydrous ammonia.
A fourth co-conspirator, Jason Brown, 34, of Malden, W.Va., previously pleaded guilty in April for his role in theft scheme—driving the other three conspirators to the mine site. Brown was sentenced in October to three years of supervised release with the first six months to be served in community confinement. Brown’s supervised release term also called for six months to be served home confinement, which included an electronic monitoring device.
Each defendant was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $6,850 for the damage caused by the leak. The anhydrous ammonia tank has since been removed from the site.The Environmental Protection Agency and the West Virginia State Police conducted the investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Erik S. Goes, William King and Blaire Malkin handled the prosecutions.