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A suspect connected to a copper theft incident at the Coats American building in Rossville, GA, that led to an oil and PCB spill is now under arrest.

A resident noticed an oily sheen March 11 and told a Rossville police officer who then traced the leak to the Coats American building on Maple Street, said Walker County spokesman Joe Legge.

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Once inside, they found an industrial transformer, containing a polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) warning label, had been tipped over in order to remove a copper coil. 

A 50-gallon drum of oil was inside the transformer, and the oil contained Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). Manufacturers once used PCB as a coolant and lubricant in transformers. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the chemical is linked to several health risks.

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The incident caused an oil spill and HazMat condition and SRT Safety, an environmental clean-up company, arrived on the scene. Other transformers in the building had been tampered with to steal copper, but didn’t have the PCB label.

Police found a bags of copper, tools, and clothing left behind. With the help of area scrap metal dealers, they took Christopher Shane Nichols, 46, into custody.

Nichols faces a felony charge of second degree burglary in Walker County, and Rossville Police said additional charges are possible.

SRT contained the oil to an area on the Coats American 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, Legge said.

Investigators believe only a small amount of oil leaked beyond the property.

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