Crews continue testing water after Jim Beam warehouse fire

Crews continue to test water after the Jim Beam warehouse fire.
Crews continue to test water after the Jim Beam warehouse fire.(WKYT)
Published: Jul. 7, 2019 at 5:21 PM EDT
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Crews continue to track the environmental impact of the massive Jim Beam warehouse fire.

That fire started Tuesday night burned for several days, leaving one warehouse destroyed. Run-off from the fire has traveled more than 20 miles along the Kentucky River, killing thousands of fish.

Sunday, the Emergency Response Team hit the water again, tracking the plume of alcohol.

It's beginning to travel from the Kentucky River, into the Ohio River. They estimate it's moving around .6 miles per hour.

Crews are testing for dissolved oxygen. Officials with the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet say the alcohol is leading to extremely low oxygen levels in the water.

"The bacteria in the water is going after the food source, which is the sugar in the alcohol and so they deplete the oxygen. The fish start to become distressed, and they eventually die," said Robert Francis, the manager of the Emergency Response Team.

They say the plume is about 24 miles long and that the leading edge is creeping closer to Carrollton, where it will flow into the Ohio River. At that point, Officials say the alcohol should dilute significantly.

In the meantime, crews are using barges to aerate the water and bring the oxygen levels up in affected areas. They say the levels have already returned to normal from Frankfort, up to Monterey.

Officials say when it comes to bourbon spills in Kentucky, that they know the drill.

"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," said Francis.

According to officials, the dead fish will decompose naturally with no harm to the river, so there is no plan to remove them.

In a statement, Beam Suntory says quote With the fire extinguished and everyone safe, we are focused on minimizing and remediating environmental impacts". The company says it is working with emergency management agencies improve the water quality.

The statement continues, "we have built berms at our site, to avoid further runoff to the nearby waterways, and 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".