By Steven Coburn-Griffis


COLUMBUS GROVE/OTTAWA — A spill that stretched for miles north along State Routes 65 and 109 had emergency responders scrambling on Tuesday.

According to representatives of the Putnam County EMA and the Ohio Department of Transportation, the spill of the as yet unidentified substance originated at the intersection of SR 65 and Sycamore Street in Columbus Grove shortly before 1 p.m.

“We’re not sure what the product is, if it’s a hydraulic fluid or diesel fuel, or if it’s some kind of farm chemical,” Brian Hilvers, director of the Putnam County Emergency Management Agency said. “We’re in the process of figuring that out right now.”

Emergency personnel were first alerted to the spill when an individual who came upon the aftermath contacted the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office expressing concern about vehicles slipping through the substance. Responding to that call, members of the Columbus Grove Fire Department, along with village employees, helped spread a thick layer of sand west along Sycamore Street between the CSX Rail tracks and SR65.

See Spill/A4


Though addressed in the village, the spill was apparent on SR65, where the northbound lane was noticeably darker than that of the southbound lane; a consequence of not only continued spillage, but vehicles tracking through and spreading the fluid across the breadth of the lane.

As fate would have it, even as reports of the spill began circulating, Paul Lehman, Putnam County Administrator with the Ohio Department of Transportation, was just exiting Interstate 75 onto SR65. On arriving at the scene, Lehman ordered a similar, though not as dramatic, an approach to addressing the issue.

“We are trying to dry the spill up as best as we can with sand, and give vehicles traction so the pavement is not as slippery,” Paul Lehman, Putnam County Administrator with the Ohio Department of Transportation, said.

ODOT trucks were dispatched, and sand was applied along the entire length of the spill, with heavier layers dropped at intersections where the responsible vehicle idled creating heavier deposits. Lehman additionally advised ODOT employees will, after an unspecified period of time to allow the sand to absorb the majority of the fluid, come through after and “broom” the sand to the side of the roadways. Ultimate clean-up, he said, is not ODOT’s responsibility.

As the immediate problem in Columbus Grove and further north was addressed, law enforcement officials began an attempt to track the vehicle. The trail, readily apparent in the form of spatters of black fluid along the highway, led officials northeast into Ottawa, where it then turned north onto State Route 109. According to Sheriff Brian Siefker, Deputy Greg Westrick reported following an increasingly narrow trail beyond the county line, and up past the Village of Hamler in Henry County.

Following their own investigation, Columbus Grove Chief of Police Sean Hiler said his department is reviewing video of the area at the time of the spill.

At the time of this report, no further information was available.