Franklin County isn’t out of the water yet in dealing with the aftermath of the Jim Beam warehouse fire in Woodford County.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said Saturday afternoon that a 23-mile-long alcohol plume is making its way down the Kentucky River, leaving a trail of dead and dying fish. The plume is currently located between Elkhorn Creek and Gratz in Owen County.
“I’m guessing by tomorrow morning the plume will be well into Owen County,” Frankfort-Franklin County Office of Emergency Management Director Tommy Russell said. “The plume is out of the City of Frankfort proper.”
The alcohol plume is the result of spills from a late-night fire Tuesday at the Jim Beam warehouse on the Woodford-Franklin County line. The fire destroyed about 45,000 barrels of young Jim Beam bourbon, and debris from the fire went into nearby Glenns Creek and then into the Kentucky River. Lowered oxygen levels are leading to fish kills.
The Energy and Environment Cabinet said that the plume is expected to enter the Ohio River late Monday morning.
“We expect the plume to dissipate quickly as it enters the much, much larger body of water, but there could be some impact to aquatic life immediately where the rivers meet,” the cabinet reported in a written release.
Cabinet representatives were on the river again Saturday taking dissolved oxygen readings and continuing to aerate the river in an attempt to alleviate the low dissolved oxygen levels.
The cabinet posted a video on its Facebook page showing fish swimming near the top of the water to get air. Authorities haven’t prohibited recreational use on the river but warned people not to eat dead or distressed fish.
“We picked up some current,” Russell said. “There aren’t many dead fish from Lock No. 4 to Elkhorn Creek (in Franklin County).”
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife was on the river Saturday performing a second fish kill count. The cabinet said results from the counts would be released soon.
Some Frankfort Plant Board water customers have reported a sweet or bourbon odor and taste in the water. However, FPB officials say the drinking water is safe and they are working with state and local officials to “monitor the situation, as public safety and public health remain the priority.”
Russell said the intake numbers at the Plant Board have returned to pre-spill norms and that any odor should be gone soon as treatment of the water is adjusted.
State officials reported that the warehouse fire is out and the under layer of the rubble is dry. Water collected from the warehouse site is being trucked to the Frankfort Sewer District plant for disposal. Cleanup at the site continues.