Rossville, GA – Rossville Police arrested 46-year old Christopher Shane Nichols today in connection with the theft of copper at the Coats American building that resulted in an oil spill.
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.
Sunday night, authorities discovered an oily sheen near the Coats American building on Maple Street. Once inside, they found an industrial transformer, containing a PCB warning label, had been tipped over in order to remove a copper coil.
The vandalism caused an oil spill that prompted a hazmat response, due to the potential release of PCB, or polychlorinated biphenyl. Other transformers inside the Coats building had also been vandalized in order to steal copper, but those devices did not contain the same warning label.
Rossville Police found a couple of bags of copper, tools and clothing left behind at the crime scene and tracked Nichols with the help of area scrap metal dealers. “We deeply appreciate the tireless efforts of Rossville Police Chief Sid Adams and his team to find those responsible for this selfish act that endangered our community,” said Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield. “Officer Dewayne Llewellyn should be commended for his quick action and resourcefulness in this case. His decision to make fliers and pass them out at area scrap metal locations helped develop leads that might not have materialized.”
As for the spill, SRT Safety, an environmental clean-up company, contained the oil to an onsite containment area at the Coats property and placed booms along a half mile stretch from Williams Street Tributary to State Line Road to absorb any residual oil that made it into the storm water.
Walker County, which owns the Coats building, continues to cooperate with the EPA and Georgia EPD to address any concerns created by the oil spill. Testing in and around the building is being conducted to help determine a plan for remediation.