Copper thieves vandalized an industrial transformer at the Coats American building prompting an emergency response Sunday night. The incident began after a resident noticed an oily sheen and notified a Rossville police officer, who traced the source to the Coats building on Maple Street.
Walker County Emergency Services (WCES) responded around 7:15 p.m. and discovered a transformer inside the building had been vandalized in order to steal copper. The transformer was labeled PCB, meaning oil inside the unit likely contained polychlorinated biphenyl, a chemical used for electrical insulation. The vandalism resulted in an oil spill.
Walker County notified Georgia EPD and their counterpart in Tennessee. Chattanooga Hazmat also responded and confirmed the presence of PCB in the oil. SRT Safety, an environmental clean-up company, was brought in to contain the oil that spilled from the transformer.
SRT 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. The oil that leaked beyond the Coats property is believed to be small, similar to the amount of residual oil that would run off from a big box store parking lot during a rain shower.
WCES and SRT continue to coordinate with Georgia EPD and the EPA, following their guidelines for containment and cleanup.
Anyone with information concerning this crime should contact the Rossville Police Department or Walker County Sheriff's Office. The thieves left behind a bag filled with copper and some tools. A reward of $1,000 is being offered by Walker County Government for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.