Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Jim Beam will pay state for fish killed after fire

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Jim Beam will pay nearly $27,000 in damages after a fire at one of its warehouses spilled alcohol into a nearby creek, killing thousands of fish.

Jim Beam will pay $26,732.33 to the state to compensate for an estimated 19,000 fish that died when bourbon seeped into Withrow Creek and the Salt River days after a warehouse caught fire last month, a statement from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources said Tuesday.

"The company's proactive measures to minimize the flow of bourbon into the waters of the Commonwealth, along with heavy rains soon after the fire helped limit the damage," said Benjy Kinman, director of the state agency.

Seventeen species of fish, including largemouth bass, catfish, paddlefish, sunfish and drum, were killed following the blaze.

Kinman said the agency did not expect any long-term damage on the river because of the spill.

"However, when conditions allow, the department intends to do a one-time stocking of certain species," Kinman said.

Thousands of fish died suddenly in a portion of the river that is on the Fort Knox military post less than a week after the fire. The fire, which started after the warehouse was struck by lightning, caused more than 800,000 gallons of bourbon to begin burning and flow into a retaining pond in Nelson County. When the pond overflowed, burning whiskey flowed into Withrow Creek.

Thorough cleanup promised

The fish were killed by a combination of exposure to a lethal concentration of alcohol and by a lack of oxygen in the water that occurs after microorganisms are attracted to the alcohol and use up too much of the oxygen, officials say.

"We will continue to do whatever it takes and will continue to cooperate to the fullest to ensure a thorough cleanup and to fulfill our responsibilities to the environment," said Rich Reese, president and CEO of Jim Beam Brands Worldwide.

There are more than 200 bourbon warehouses in Kentucky, which store about four million barrels.

Jim Beam is the largest bourbon producer in the state, but other bourbon distilleries include Maker's Mark and Wild Turkey.

In 2000, a fire destroyed a seven-story Wild Turkey warehouse in Anderson County, causing a spill into the Kentucky River that left hundreds of thousands of fish dead for 66 miles. Wild Turkey paid $256,000 to the state.

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