From: Associated Press
Published October 8, 2004 12:00 AM

Authorities Hunt Keg of Potent Chemical that Fell from Truck in North Dakota

DEVILS LAKE, North Dakota — Three drums filled with sodium cyanide fell off a truck, and one barrel remains missing. Authorities said beekeepers planned to use the dangerous chemical as a pesticide and could be fined.


The Ramsey County sheriff's office has declined to say how or when the kegs of sodium cyanide disappeared or who was involved, citing the pending investigation.


Farmers found two, 30-gallon kegs alongside a state highway east of Devils Lake on Sept. 30. The missing barrel is believed to have fallen off the back of the truck somewhere between Devils Lake, in the east-central part of the state, and Cavalier, near the state's northeast corner.


The chemical was being brought into the state by beekeepers to sterilize equipment and kill bees at the season's end, said Andrew Thostenson, North Dakota State University pesticide specialist.


Sodium cyanide reacts with water to create lethal hydrogen cyanide gas, which can kill a person in five minutes, he said.


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"It isn't illegal to possess the compound, but it also isn't registered as a pesticide anywhere in the United States, so its appearance in North Dakota should throw up red flags," Thostenson said.


The beekeepers could be fined up to $6,000, said Jeff Olson, a program manager at the state Agriculture Department. He said department officials investigated and were surprised to find that use of the chemical as a pesticide was widespread, with 18 kegs shipped into the state.


The disappearance of one keg attracted the attention of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.


"The people in homeland security and the FBI are not amused," Thostenson said.


Sodium cyanide is registered for use in the commercial chrome plating and in mining for extracting gold and silver from ore.


Source: Associated Press


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