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Officials: Whiskey fire runoff killed thousands of fish in Kentucky River

By Sommer Brokaw

July 9 (UPI) -- Thousands of dead fish have turned up in the Kentucky River -- days after a major fire started at a whiskey storage warehouse and sent liquor into the waterway, state officials said.

The fire began a week ago at Jim Beam's Woodford County facility. It destroyed 45,000 barrels of bourbon and caused the equivalent of 6 million bottles into a creek and, ultimately, the Kentucky River. No one was injured by the fire, but the contaminated liquor created a bourbon plume that spanned more than 20 miles in the river.

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Kentucky environmental officials said the alcohol cuts oxygen levels in the water.

"We continue to see dead and dying fish," the state environmental cabinet said in a Facebook post Monday. "People using the Kentucky River in the area of the plume will likely see and smell dead fish."

RELATED Fire that torched 45K Jim Beam whiskey barrels still burns in Kentucky

WKYT-TV reported an emergency response team is tracking the plume, which is moving about a half-mile per hour.

"The bacteria in the water is going after the food source, which is the sugar in the alcohol and so they deplete the oxygen," emergency manager Robert Francis said. "The fish start to become distressed, and they eventually die."

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The plume has started to move downstream toward the Ohio River, where it's expected to dissipate.

RELATED Major fire burns Jim Beam whiskey warehouse in Kentucky

Cleanup crews are using barges to aerate the water and boost oxygen levels. Environmental officials are assessing damage along the waterways, and say it could take days to get a complete count of how many fish died.

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