A barge launches into the Kentucky River by the Frankfort Sewer Department on July 5, 2019. Nicholasville-based CMC Inc. teams used the barges to aerate the river to raise oxygen levels in the water. (Photo by McKenna Horsley)

Local and state officials met Friday morning and plan to meet again Saturday morning with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency representatives regarding the aftermath of the bourbon spill caused by a warehouse fire this week. 

Jim Beam, owner of the burned warehouse on the Woodford-Franklin County line, sent teams of barges to aerate the Kentucky River. Two barges were launched near Kentucky River Pool 3 by the Frankfort Sewer Department on Friday afternoon. Nicholasville-based CMC Inc. used the equipment to aerate the river to raise oxygen levels in the water. 

EPA On-site Coordinator Greg Harper, who is based out of Atlanta for the agency’s Region 4, said he has been in the area since Wednesday night. He said that dissolved oxygen levels in the river are below one milligram per liter. Normal dissolved oxygen levels at this time of year for the Kentucky River are from four to 10 milligrams per liter. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife began its count of fish kills on Friday and has not released an official number yet. 

“We will be out here as long as it takes,” Harper said.

Harper was among officials, including Frankfort Mayor Bill May and Frankfort/Franklin County Emergency Management Director Tommy Russell, at Kentucky River Pool 3 assessing the river while the barges were in the water. 

“I’m appreciative of the EPA and the state for coming in to help and working together and hope to mitigate any damage or disruption to businesses along the river,” May said. 

John Mura, a spokesperson for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, said various teams were in the water Thursday to test oxygen levels in the water and count fish kills. He said the cabinet expects to see the bulk of fish kills in the coming days. 

Mura reiterated that the water supply is safe to use and that recreational use of the river is still permitted. While fishing is still allowed, Mura said that the cabinet urges people to “use common sense” and not consume distressed or dead fish. 

Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells emphasized Mura's message — do not eat dead fish. Wells said that the county has offered use of its compost facility as a disposal site for the fish. 

"Everybody that needs to be involved is on top of it," Wells said. 

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