EAST LIVERPOOL - Two dogs found covered with a tar-like substance over the weekend led to a full-fledged hazmat operation in the East End of the city Wednesday when the source of the substance was located in an old factory.
Alecia O'Hanlon of Bradshaw Avenue said her dogs Oden and Miley turned up missing Friday from their kennel and both were seen in the area of Michigan Street on Saturday.
Police were called Sunday when Oden was found on Michigan Street with half his body covered in the tarry substance, which had also begun to cause burns on his skin, according to Marsha McGinnis of Paws R Riding on It, a dog rescue group.
City officials and members of the East Liverpool Fire Department met Wednesday in East End at the former Dacar building that was the site where two dogs were found covered in tar over the weekend. (Photo by Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert)
McGinnis was called and took Oden to Ashleigh's Grooming in Chester, W.Va., where nine hours of cleaning with Dawn dish soap and vegetable oil were needed to clean off the substance before he was taken to a veterinarian in Robinson Center, Pa.
On Tuesday, Renee Welch of Columbiana County and Beaver County Lost and Found Pets visited the neighborhood, looking for Miley and spoke to a resident who lives adjacent to the closed Dacar Industries plant just across the Elizabeth Street bridge, who she said told her the plant had some oily substances in it.
So, she went to investigate and found small spots of tar along the pathway to the back of the building. Along the way, she and her husband were calling Miley's name.
Behind the building, they found barrels and piles of white powdery substance and tar in pits and puddles and, underneath one tub, there was Miley, on her side, stuck in a pool of tar.
"It took my husband 10 minutes to pull her out of this stuff," Welch said as she pointed to the pool of tarry goo. "She could not move."
Miley was also taken to the groomer's for cleaning and to the veterinarian for some gashes on her neck and leg.
As word of the dogs' plight began spreading on social media over the weekend and into this week, city officials also began seeing the reports and started hearing the Dacar facility mentioned as the source, according to Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell.
"We came (Wednesday) and checked it out and found a lot more than we were expecting," he admitted.
The rear of the building has collapsed for the most part, with debris mixed in amongst what a company worker described as lime and clay powder and tar.
Estell, a lifelong resident of East End, said, "I don't remember this facility ever being open in my lifetime."
In response, the East Liverpool Regional Hazmat Team was activated and arrived on the scene just after noon on Wednesday and set up while awaiting company officials and the Environmental Protection Agency, while news crews also began circling the area.
The hazmat crew began air monitoring and also set up an emergency showering station.
James Datesh, president of the Pittsburgh-based Dacar, said the building is currently being demolished by a company but that the demolition has been "dragged out way beyond when it was supposed to be completed," saying when he arrived and saw that development, it "was not a happy surprise."
The company hired to do the tear down was on the site Monday, according to Datesh, who said it was obvious to him the tear down has not been happening and he had called the demolition company.
"I told them to get down here today to put the press on them to move on this, but they can't come today. They are supposed to call me tonight," Datesh said.
Dacar purchased the plant - a former pottery - in the 1950s and discontinued operations there two years ago, Datesh said, saying it had made coating materials for the steel industry.
Datesh said that, while the hazmat team was taking the protocol precautions it was required to take and should be taking, he did not believe there was any immediate concern from the materials on the property, despite the hazmat members wearing self-contained protective gear.
He said one of his employees actually heard about the situation with the dogs on a news report.
Some of O'Hanlon's friends and family members gathered at the scene, and tempers flared at times, with some raising their voices several times about the condition of the dogs and the danger the building presented to them and, possibly, children.
Fire Chief Bill Jones eventually called for city police to come and remove the residents, who dispersed on their own.
Datesh assured O'Hanlon, however, he was a dog lover himself as he led his own 15-year-old dog on a leash around the property.
Asked if his company will pay for the cost of cleaning and vetting O'Hanlon's pets, Datesh said, "I don't know. I don't want to make a definitive answer about that."
Datesh said he was uncertain whether the EPA will hold him responsible for the condition of the property or the company that is supposed to have been tearing it down for leaving it half-done.