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EPA aerates Kentucky River to save fish

LEXINGTON, Ky., May 18 -- State and federal environmental officials pumped oxygen into the Kentucky River Thursday in an attempt to save fish being killed by a massive spill of bourbon moving downstream.

An estimated 200,000 gallons of booze flowed into the river last week during a fire that destroyed a seven-story warehouse filled with barrels of bourbon whiskey at the Wild Turkey distillery near Lawrenceburg, Ky.

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The May 7 spill forced Lawrenceburg's water treatment plant to shutdown and 20,000 Anderson County residents were ordered to boil water for several days.

The flaming river of alcohol charred trees on the riverbank but the extent of the fish kill did not become visible for days -- when tens of thousands fish floated belly-up in one of Kentucky's worst fish kills.

The spill reached Lock and Dam No. 2 Thursday, 50 miles from Lawrenceburg.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency team was using five or six barges equipped with large air compressors to pump oxygen into the river through perforated pipes. The air pumping technique has been used to save underwater life after oil spills

"Their experts say aeration is the only intervention to try now, and it can't hurt," Bob Ware, assistant director of the state Division of Water told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

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Ware said the alcohol was killing thousands of fish at all depths and that the level of dissolved oxygen in the water was near zero and would stay that way for a week without intervention.

Officials were pumping air into the river upstream of Carrollton, where the Kentucky River meets the Ohio River.

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