UPDATE: The sale of the former Coats American plant in Rossville has been postponed indefinitely. 
Workers are still cleaning up a oil spill there that started last month.
Investigators believe a man was trying to take the copper off a transformer when the oil ran into a storm drain..
A team is still looking into the amount of chemicals in the area.


PREVIOUS STORY: Plans are on hold to sell an old north Georgia textile mill, after a fuel spill led to the discovery of a harmful chemical.

Channel 3 has learned Walker County officials knew the chemicals were there before attempting to sell the building and people living around the mill want to know why.

For the last five days an environmental cleanup has been underway after a hazmat spill at the Coats American building. We've learned the roads surrounding the property are back open, but the investigation about public safety continues.

The old textile mill is an eyesore and nuisance Barbara Dean has lived next to since the 1960s.

"I kept seeing people going in and out getting copper and taking off and I would call Rossville,” she said.

Police said it was copper that Christopher Nichols went into the building for.

While he was there, they say he tipped over a transformer spilling oil containing PCB’s - a chemical linked to cancer and reproductive issues.

"The chemical that is toxic is toxic if it burns. If there was a big fire here it could be a big deal but the PCB in the oil was contained in a containment area,” said Joe Legge, Walker County Public Relations Director.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division tells Channel 3 the environmental cleanup contractor completed the emergency response phase of this incident. Storm drains were flushed to remove and recover any remaining contamination. Sample lab results showed all are below the 50 ppm threshold.

Contractors will be back on site in the next few days to decontaminate equipment and complete disposal. Absorbent booms were left in the drainage areas and will be monitored and maintained after the next several rain events solely for precautionary measures.

However, Dean is still worried.

"I know there's chemicals still in there and stuff that if somebody knew what to do right there they could blow that place up and this whole block up through there,” she said.

In 2005, EPD placed the building on the state's "hazardous site inventory."

A Channel 3 investigation uncovered plans by the Walker County Development Authority to review two offers to buy the property but decided to postpone the decision for 30 days because of the spill.

Residents want to know why the county planned to sell the building before cleaning up the chemicals.

"Yeah, nobody tells us anything down in here,” Dean said.

A county spokesperson says the chemicals were contained.

The county is waiting on the EPA to form a plan for removal prior to selling the property. Walker County officials said they will be back at the property in the next few days to post new trespassing and PCB warning signs on the building.

Nichols currently faces a felony charge of second-degree burglary in Walker County, but additional charges are possible.  

He also stands accused of auto theft in East Ridge, TN in an unrelated case.