‘Drink like a fish’ has its limits
Bourbon and water don’t mix. At least, they didn’t when a Jim Beam bourbon warehouse burned down. The fire killed thousands of fish in the Kentucky River.
The Kentucky River is now full of dead fish as a result of the fire that burned 45,000 barrels of whiskey.
Massive amounts of fish dying off and a major loss of whiskey are bad enough on their own; it’s even more tragic they happened during the same event.
What exactly caused all this damage in the first place? A lightning strike.
The fire may be out but that doesn’t mean the damage is over.
The runoff from the warehouse will continue to pollute waterways and drinking water sources, according to spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, John Mura.
Fish will continue to die as the plume from the warehouse moves downstream, toward the Ohio River.
The plume will slowly dissipate as it travels, making it less destructive. It’s estimated to be 24 miles long and is moving at 0.6 mph, so it won’t happen overnight.
It reached the Ohio River earlier this week, which helped dilute it to safe levels.
Bacteria REALLY like whiskey
Such a high number of dead fish make it sound like it’s the alcohol itself killing the fish. It’s actually what’s feeding on the alcohol that’s playing a big factor in the fish deaths.
“The bacteria in the water is going after the food source, which is the sugar in the alcohol and so they deplete the oxygen,” said Robert Francis, manager of the state’s emergency response team.
“The fish start to become distressed, and they eventually die.”
Barges are being used to aerate the water to increase the oxygen content.
“We’ve had several occur in this state, so when this one occurred, we were just ready for it and knew what the actions were to take,” Francis continued.
Not over yet
Beam Suntory, the Jim Beam parent company, said they were focused on minimizing environmental impacts in a statement.
“We are conducting water sampling and water field screening to get real-time results of water quality on the river, as part of a coordinated effort,” the statement read.
It’s still unclear exactly how many fish died from the runoff.
“People using the Kentucky River in the area of the plume will likely see and smell dead fish,” according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.