December 28, 2019 – Beam Suntory has agreed to pay the state of Kentucky more than $700,000 following the environmental damage from last July’s warehouse fire in Woodford County. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet negotiated a $600,000 fine with the company’s Jim Beam Brands unit, with an additional $112,000 to reimburse the agency for its expenses from the fire.

On July 3, lightning struck a warehouse at Beam’s maturation complex on the site of the former Old Crow Distillery on McCracken Road. That warehouse held an estimated 40-thousand barrels of whiskey, and collapsed in the resulting fire. The site is located on the banks of Glenns Creek, which flows into the Kentucky River and eventually into the Ohio River. State fish and wildlife investigators later found dead fish along 62 miles of all three waterways, with most of the impact in Glenns Creek and the Kentucky River.

Fish floating in the Kentucky River following the Jim Beam warehouse fire. Photo courtesy WKYT-TV, Lexington, KY.

Fish floating in the Kentucky River on July 8, 2019 following the Jim Beam warehouse fire. Photo courtesy WKYT-TV.

After the fire, Beam launched a campaign to mitigate the environmental damage, including the use of equipment designed to increase the amount of oxygen in the waterways. When alcohol is spilled into a stream, it displaces the amount of oxygen available for fish to breathe. As a result, large-scale fish kills are common following whiskey warehouse accidents in which spilled alcohol reaches nearby streams.

Beam Suntory issued this statement Friday on the fines:

“While we were able to minimize impacts to the surrounding environment and wildlife — including by deploying aerators in nearby creeks and the Kentucky River, fire suppression and containment strategies to minimize runoff and ongoing water sampling and water field screening — we recognize the regrettable and unavoidable impacts of the incident and have been committed to doing what we can to restore the environment. That includes making payments to the state to compensate for time spent, resources utilized and costs to supplement the local fish population.”

According to the Courier-Journal, the settlement also provides for future mitigation requirements if ethanol from the spill causes any environmental issues in the future.

Links: Beam Suntory | Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet