Woodford County

The Jim Beam fire is out, but the bourbon runoff spreads to the Ohio River

A fire that began Tuesday night at the Jim Beam warehouse is out, but environmental impacts are spreading throughout waterways as alcohol runoff on the Kentucky River extends about 23 miles long and reaches the Ohio River.

Bourbon-tainted water was found in the Ohio River Monday, according to John Mura, spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. The alcohol is expected to dissipate in the larger body of water. However, the cabinet warned some aquatic life may be killed.

The water quality assessments done on Monday showed the impacted water recovered quickly once the alcohol runoff passed, Mura said. He said he anticipates the runoff will completely pass in two or three days.

As of Sunday, the fire at the warehouse was out, according to an earlier cabinet Facebook post. Cleanup at the warehouse will continue.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources will continue to count dead fish and conduct wildlife assessments on the Kentucky River, according to the post. Additionally, aeration of the river will continue to maintain oxygen levels in the water.

Last week, the state Energy and Environment Cabinet warned people to use caution when consuming “distressed fish,” and said to not consume already dead or dying fish. Fishing and recreational use of the river is not prohibited, but users are encouraged to use caution.

Franklin and Owen County Emergency Management, Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Beam Suntory representatives will work together to define the location and length of the alcohol runoff through real-time water quality tests, according to the post.

The fire destroyed 45,000 barrels of “relatively young” whiskey, according to a Jim Beam statement. This translates to 1.89 million gallons of bourbon. Due to the age of the whiskey, the company said availability is not expected to be impacted.

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