WOODFORD CO., Ky. (WHAS11) – It’s a disturbing scene on the Kentucky River after runoff from the Jim Beam bourbon warehouse fire leads to a large fish kill.
Hundreds of fish are dead in the river as state officials said the alcohol has spread approximately 23 miles long.
“It was just a steady stream of fish and foam floating down the river. I've never seen anything like that before,” John Cox, a camper at the Kentucky River Campground, said.
Teams from the EEC, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and representatives from Beam Suntory, along with three teams from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources were on the river Friday. They took samples to test the oxygen levels and documented the number of fish killed.
“We had suspicion when I heard about the fire, but had no idea the amount that would be coming down,” another camper, David Whittaker, said.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said the alcohol is expected to reach the Ohio River early Monday morning. Officials said they expect it to dissipate quickly, but it may affect wildlife in the Ohio River.
Other impacts seen on the Kentucky River include foaming, discoloration, and odor, according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.
“If you open up a can of tuna fish, and leave it open in your car with the hot sun for two or three hours when it's a hundred-degree day, that's kind of how I woke up smelling this morning,” Whittaker said.
The fire at the warehouse facility in Woodford County broke out Tuesday night, sending bourbon into nearby creeks and then the river.
A company deployed aerators to help oxygenate the water, in an effort to keep more fish alive.
Fire crews are still letting that fire burn. They hope to burn as much alcohol as possible, so it doesn't continue to flow into the water.
Jim Beam is still assessing the value of the lost bourbon.
Agencies urge caution regarding the consumption of distressed fish and never consume fish that have died. Fishing and other recreation along the impacted river is not prohibited, but users are encouraged to be aware of conditions before accessing this waterway.
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