A chemical spill late Monday in Colerain was no accident, and deputies and emergency officials are working to identify the substance and track down suspects.
A chemical that smelled like paint thinner was found at 10:48 p.m. Monday leaking onto a 300-yard stretch of road near Colerain Township 475, according to a report from the Belmont County Sheriff's Department. The chemical also was dumped into a drainage ditch that led to a "tributary of a tributary" of Short Creek, Belmont County Interim Emergency Management Director Dave Ivan said today.
The chemical Ivan described by as a type of "parts cleaner" did not reach the creek bed. He said, however, there was enough of the chemical to flush leaves down a ditch near the unnamed creek. He said the chemical hasn't been officially identified, but he believes it is a type of solvent used in any maintenance garage. Ivan said used solvents are typically taken from such businesses by companies specializing in the removal of hazardous materials.
Ivan said the chemical was likely hauled in a drum, and he believes those involved knew the chemical would end up on the road and in the ditch.
"Absolutely," Ivan said when asked if the chemical had been leaked intentionally.
Today, Belmont County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Joseph Hummel said the chemical spill was reported by a resident in the area whose farm animals had gotten free from his property. According to the complainant, similar spills occurred in the area several times this year. Hummel said there are no suspects in the investigation.
Ivan said chemical readings were taken, but those readings did not indicate enough of a danger to warrant road closures. The emergency management director said he could only speculate as to what would happen had the chemical entered the creek.
"It's a tough call," Ivan said. "I don't know what the effects would be once it got in the water."