In last week’s Monday Business Briefing, we told you the New York Times was in town last month covering the controversy over a black mold that grows off liquor fumes.
This week, the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District is following up, just issuing a notice of violation to Diageo Americas Supply Inc., a subsidiary of London, England-based Diageo, the global alcoholic beverage conglomerate.
Pollution Control officials have documented multiple complaints by the residents of extremely strong whiskey fumes around the Diageo operation on Millers Lane in southwest Louisville, as well as black mold on houses and property.
Diageo officials are on notice they must be in compliance by October 5 or face up to a $10,000-per-day fine.
From the investigation, dated September 6:
During June 2011 to May 2012 the District received 27 complaints from residents living near warehouses located at 2349 Millers Lane, Louisville, Kentucky. Complainants reported a black, sooty substance covering homes, cars, vegetation, and generally everything exposed to the outdoors. The substance was reported as dust, or (fell) out from exhaust stacks of local industrial businesses. The complainants report the substance is unsightly, destructive to plant life, and is generally an annoyance and nuisance to property owners. Additionally, residents reported the substance would re-appear on homes, cars, or other objects shortly after they had been cleaned or replaced.
As the New York Times reported from Louisville, the “substance” is Baudoinia, a type of fungus that lives off ethanol, the alcohol produced in bourbon distillation or any distillation of spirits. Neighborhoods surrounding distilleries get coated with the stuff.
From the NYTimes story
In June, home and business owners in and around Louisville, part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, filed class-action lawsuits in federal and circuit courts against five major distilleries, charging property damage and negligence. In September, with the help of lawyers in Britain, the plaintiffs’ Louisville lawyer, William F. McMurry, plans to bring a similar suit in Scotland, where the fungus is so rampant that it almost seems like part of the architecture. “Every distillery that we’ve tested has had it, as far as I know,” said James Scott, the University of Toronto mycologist who helped identify and name Baudoinia.
As we noted last week, this is a plaintiff attorney’s dream … a pollution that links back to some of the most profitable companies in the world including Brown-Forman, William Grant & Sons, LVMH, Diageo and Beam.
Louisville and the surrounding counties such as Nelson have dozens of distilleries, so we’re guessing we haven’t heard the last about this.
Industry experts say there is technology that allows distilleries to capture the ethanol on which the black mold feeds, but that the systems are expensive.