By Dena Lythgoe
If you’re like me, you tend to think of pollutants as dirty, chemical based components. In fact, if you were to search google for “what are the top 5 pollutants”, you’d get the below mentioned responses; Ozone, Carbon Monoxide, Sulfur Dioxide, Lead, Nitrogen Oxides. Take a moment and think of pollutants that you tend to see on a regular basis. Are they dirty and chemical based? As you rack your brain for what falls into pollutants, I bet you’re not thinking of a socially popular drink enjoyed by millions and a Kentucky classic. Bourbon! Unless of course you’re reading this while enjoying a Buffalo Trace, neat.
Kentucky distillers produce 95% of the world’s bourbon according to the Kentucky Distillers Association. Many new and expanded production plans are in the works leading to a $2.3 billion dollar building boom throughout Kentucky. A standard bourbon barrel usually holds about 53 gallons of bourbon or 201 liters. Only recently Jim Beam ended up losing 1% of their aged production in which 45,000 barrels were destroyed.
The fire started due to a lightning strike that set one of the many Jim Beam warehouses on fire. Due to the contents, the fire burned for days and the water runoff filled primarily with alcohol leaked into the nearby rivers and creeks. This runoff caused the oxygen levels to decrease in the 23 miles of waterways killing fish before dissipating into the Ohio River.
At this point, take another moment to give some thought about pollutants and as a business owner what type of contingency plan do you have in place for these types of incidents? Are you creating, hauling, or storing products you don’t think are pollutants or contaminants that potentially could be? The Jim Beam warehouse was equipped with a full sprinkler system but with the highly flammable contents and wood frame construction, the sprinklers were overwhelmed by the fiery inferno of this American classic. The blaze burned so intensely it melted firetrucks lights.
Some of you may be thinking, “duh”. Of course, bourbon has the ideal pollutant qualities. It’s flammable. It can cause hangovers…need I say more? But let’s think about something much more benign, milk. A staple across this country and enjoyed by people of all ages. Many people think there’s no reason to cry over spilled milk, but that wasn’t the case in 1994, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2007 and twice in 2011, when milk tanker trucks reported spills which caused damage to the nearby waterways.
Each of the entities involved in the spills, both milk and bourbon, were fined by government regulators as their product polluted waterways and caused harm to the environment. Just like spilled milk or an inferno of fiery bourbon, governmental fines are no joking matter. Fines for just one of the reported milk spills were over $600,000. This dollar amount doesn’t take into consideration the additional cost of the clean-up. These types of incidents can and have caused businesses to go out of business.
The owner of Jim Beam being a multibillion-dollar entity used many risk management techniques to avoid an accident like this from happening yet mother nature had a different plan with her lightning strike. Jim Beam has insurance to provide protection for their building, inventory, and for the pollutant cleanup and government fines. Ultimately, they will recover and remain a titan within the industry. But how about you? What contingency do you have in place? Are you protected against foreseen and unforeseen pollutant exposures? How about the correct pollutant protection? Just some food for thought, or in this case, beverages for thought.