UPDATE: Police arrested a man on Wednesday for a burglary that led to an oil spill in Rossville over the weekend.

Police say 46-year-old Christopher Shane Nichols is charged with second-degree burglary and more charges are possible. 

Nichols is accused of trying to steal copper from a transformer at Coats American building on Maple Street.

Police found a couple of bags of copper, tools and clothing left behind at the crime scene. With the help of area scrap dealers, police were able to track Nichols.

The vandalism caused an oil spill that prompted a hazmat response, due to the potential release of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB).

Nichols also faces charges for an auto theft in an unrelated case in East Ridge.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.


PREVIOUS UPDATE: Clean up continues for a chemical spill in Rossville. State clean up agencies said it is contained to the Maple Street area. Police are still looking for the people responsible.

Police believe copper thieves caused the spill. They found a transformer tipped over inside the building. The hazardous materials then leaked into a nearby drainage ditch.

Joe and Cindy Goodson watch cleanup crews from their front porch. Crews have been working around the clock to contain the hazardous oil from spreading any further.  “A lot of equipment, fire department, HAZMAT,” said Cindy Goodson.

They live across the street from the vacant Coats American building. The Goodsons said it’s not unusual to see people trespassing in the middle of the night. “They have teenagers throwing rocks in the windows and stuff like that. You got homeless people going in there, you know taking up camp.”

“It is clear that thieves were in this building trying to steal copper. They even left behind a couple of knapsacks filled with copper that we found once we entered the building,” said Walker County Spokesman Joe Legge.

The oil contains Polychlorinated Biphenyls. Legge said it is considered a hazardous chemical to come in contact with. “It is a chemical that is toxic if it burns. If there was a big fire here, it could be a big deal.”

But crews don't believe people living in the area are in any danger. State cleanup crews were called in over night to help remove the chemicals from inside the plant as well as a small amount that trickled into the surrounding water.

They said there's no need for people to leave the area. “We haven't been alerted to any potential problems. We would defer to EPD and EPA, and they haven't said we needed to be concerned with that.”

A criminal investigation is underway. Anyone who has seen someone entering this building recently should contact the Rossville Police Department or Walker County Sheriff's Office.

A reward of $1,000 is being offered by Walker County Government for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.


ORIGINAL STORY: Crews have contained a chemical spill in Walker County on Sunday.

Walker County spokesman Joe Legge said vandals got inside the Coats American building on Maple Street in Rossville and turned over transformers that contained oil.

Legge said the oil leaked into a nearby drainage ditch. He told Channel 3 the oil contains polychlorinated biphenyls, which is hazardous.

The county has owned the building since 2007. Legge said a previous environmental assessment on the property did mention hazardous chemicals.

No one has been evacuated in nearby neighborhoods.

A resident is the one who saw an oil sheen and reported it to police. They arrived at the scene around 7:15 p.m.

Officials have contacted the Environmental Protection Division in Georgia. 

Several streets are blocked including Maple Street near Williams Street, McFarland Avenue, and Flegal Street.

Right now, no one has been arrested. Anyone with information is asked to call the Rossville Police Department or the Walker County Sheriff's Office.

Chattanooga firefighters are also assisting with the clean up.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for more details on this developing story.