Burning of Jim Beam Warehouse Having Ecological Effects

Runoff from the Jim Bean distillery fire is reportedly having residual effects on the local ecology.

source: Wikimedia Commons

Late last week, the Jim Beam warehouse in Northern Kentucky suffered a massive fire.  As a result, crews are continuing to keep track of the possible impact that very fire may have on the surrounding area. 

Experts have surmised that the runoff from the fire may have traveled as much as 20 miles, if not more, along the Kentucky River.  The result appears to be that the fish along that river are dying, by the thousands.

The fire itself had no reported injuries. However, the Versailles Kentucky based bourbon manufacturer lost more than 45,000 barrels of its famous liquor to the fire.  Not only was the alcohol lost in the fire, but what didn't burn has made its way into the waterways, traveling from the Kentucky River to the Ohio River, spreading contamination as it goes.

A report by WKYT, a CBS affiliate in the region, states that an emergency response team is continually tracking the alcohol plume, as it makes its way down the river at an estimated .6 miles an hour.  As the crews monitor the alcohols progression, they are also testing the water for dissolved oxygen.  The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet warn that the primary concern is that the alcohol is causing extremely reduced levels of oxygen in the waterways.  This lowering of oxygen is what is causing the deadly conditions that are affecting the fish, and appears to be causing their deaths.

Monday, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet posted to their Facebook page: "The Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is on the river again today to continue wildlife assessments and fish kill count.  Results are pending."

The department went on to say that they are continuing to see both dead and dying fish.  They warned that any individuals choosing to use the Kentucky River in the area of the alcohol plume are more than likely to both see and smell dead fish.

The process, as explained by Robert Francis, manager of the emergency response team, is that the bacteria in the water is going after and breaking down the food source, which in this case is the sugar contained within the alcohol.  This causes a drop in the oxygen content in the water, which then distresses the fish, and they will eventually die.

Although officials feel confident that once the alcohol plume reaches the Ohio River, the concentration should be significantly diluted.  Until then, the team's crews are using barges to aerate the water, in an attempt to bring the oxygen levels back up in the affected area.

So, what’s the verdict—you decide.

Will the fish be the only ecological damage done from the runoff of the warehouse fire?