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Bourbon Plume Reaches Louisville’s Drinking Water

The bourbon plume from last week’s Jim Beam warehouse fire has floated to Louisville’s drinking water intake in the Ohio River.

The Louisville Water Company says the city’s drinking water supply is safe, but the utility has adjusted its treatment strategy to protect the taste of the water and absorb any lingering odors.

“So Louisville Water has added a little bit of extra carbon to our water. Customers will not notice a difference at all,” said spokeswoman Kelley Dearing Smith.

The plume reached Louisville Tuesday and is expected to leave the area on Wednesday. Approximately 75 billion gallons of water flow past Louisville along the Ohio River every day.

Along the Kentucky River, dissolved oxygen levels are rebounding in the wake of the bourbon spill that caused thousands of fish to die.

“So we’re looking at seeing the, hopefully, the river healing itself and the fish population returning very quickly,” said John Mura, Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet spokesman.

Dead fish continue to float down the Ohio River from the Kentucky River, but Mura said the plume has not affected aquatic life in the Ohio River.

A lightning strike sparked a fire at the Versailles-based Jim Beam warehouse last week, igniting 45,000 barrels of bourbon and sending a plume of ash and alcohol into nearby waterways.

The next task for state officials and Jim Beam will include cleaning up tens of thousands of metal hoops left over from the charred remains of the bourbon barrels, Mura said.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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