Dec 28, 2000

Fish Kill Blamed on Bourbon Spill

A 28-mile long stretch of dead water in the Kentucky River has driven fish to jump out of its path and killed everything that breathes with gills.

The state Natural Resources Cabinet is officially still looking into the cause of the problem. However, the general consensus is that it is related to last week's fire at the Wild Turkey distillery at Lawrenceburg and the flaming stream of bourbon that went into the river.

``Somebody said there were so many bodies across the mouth of Elkhorn Creek, you could literally walk across it,'' said Pete Pfeiffer, director of the fisheries division in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Fish were driven into tributaries to find water with enough oxygen to survive. ``They were literally jumping over the dam,'' Pfeiffer said.

Pfeiffer said the dead zone did not actually start until well down river from Lawrenceburg and a few days after the accident, in which an estimated 200,000 gallons of bourbon went into the water. Officials suggested that oxygen was sucked out of the water by a growing algae plume that fed on the alcohol.

Maleva Chamberlain of the state Division of Water said the water is safe for people. No communities draw their drinking water from the main stem of the river.