Kentucky River is filled with dead fish after fire at bourbon warehouse
Jeremiah Rodriguez, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Monday, July 8, 2019 8:36AM EDT
The Kentucky River is teeming with piles of dead fish following a fire at a Jim Beam bourbon storage warehouse.
While last week’s fire at a facility in Versailles, Ky. has been put out, 45,000 barrels of aging whiskey has been destroyed. No one was injured in the fire, which was put out Sunday.
According to Jim Beam's parent company, Beam Suntory, the warehouse was insured and equipped with sprinklers. But the distiller said the fire still spread rapidly because there was so much wood and alcohol in the building.
Last week, state officials told The Associated Press they wanted to let as much of the alcohol burn in order to reduce the amount of bourbon-filled runoff into nearby waterways.
The fish died despite the containment system set up to prevent runoff, Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet spokesperson John Mura told CNN.
Last week, a Facebook Post from the agency warned people they would likely see and smell more dead fish as more of the runoff flows into the river. The state warns people not to eat the fish.
Kim Strohmeier, who lives on the river, said he has never seen anything like this before in his life.
"I don’t believe I would want to swim in it right now. In a few days when all this passes, it will be fine," Strohmeier told WKYT. "A lot of fishermen in both the Elkhorn Creek and the river here … folks aren’t going to have much success fishing in the river in the next few weeks”
State officials had predicted the river would be affected as the water used to extinguish the flames would trickle down into a nearby creek and eventually reach the Kentucky River.
The alcohol plume on the river, which is approximately 37 kilometres long, was expected to reach the Ohio River early Monday morning.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet is expecting more impact to the aquatic life where the two rivers meet. Officials from the agency are currently aerating the Kentucky River in an attempt to boost the low dissolved-oxygen levels in the water.
The total cost and cause of the damage is still being determined, though early reports suggest a lightning strike fire caused the fire.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources was also at the scene on Sunday and said they would continue making wildlife assessments and keep an estimated tally of all the dead fish.
Meanwhile, the drinking water isn’t expected to be impacted but it could be possible for some to detect a whiff of a bourbon odour, state officials warned.
With files from The Associated Press