Beam Suntory may be fined over warehouse fire

Beam Suntory could be fined following a fire at one of its Jim Beam warehouses earlier this month after thousands of fish in the Kentucky River died.

A fire broke out at a Jim Beam warehouse in Kentucky on 2 July, thought to be caused by a lightning strike, damaging 45,000 barrels of whiskey. No human injuries were reported from the incident.

However, the fire led to a 23-mile-long plume of alcohol spilling into the Kentucky River, killing fish and other aquatic life forms due to depleted oxygen levels in the water.

An update on the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s (EEC) Facebook page on 5 July said: “Teams from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, US Environmental Protection Agency and representatives from Beam Suntory, along with three teams from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, are on the river today, sampling water oxygen levels and documenting the number of fish killed.

“In addition to the assessment teams, there are teams on the river conducting active aeration to mitigate some of the effects on the aquatic life. The agencies are seeing increasing quantities of dead and distressed fish.”

The Division of Fish and Wildlife Resources spent three days on the river counting the number of fish killed. It is now assessing these numbers to determine a number and a civil penalty for Beam Suntory, the EEC confirmed.

A spokesperson for the EEC said: “The Cabinet will be issuing a Notice of Violation to Beam Suntory for the introduction of the spilled Bourbon into the waters of the Commonwealth.

“The matter will then be referred to our Cabinet’s Division of Enforcement for a settlement that includes the assessment of civil penalties.”

Beam Suntory had no new update on the fire when contacted by The Spirits Business yesterday (Tuesday 17 July), but stressed from its earlier statement regarding the incident: “We have been informed that the situation is now sufficiently under control and that the State of Kentucky is preparing to end emergency response activities and transition to longer-term, more routine monitoring.

“We look forward to partnering with them to protect water and the natural environment.”

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