The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati recently upheld a lower federal court ruling which allows residents of Louisville, Kentucky to continue seeking damages from Diageo Americas Supply regarding excessive ethanol emissions from its bourbon warehouses.
Diageo produces Bulleit Bourbon and other spirits. Residents have been complaining, for quite some time, that the company’s warehouses in Louisville have been emitting foul and damaging ethanol gases.
According to The Courier Journal, the alcohol in question is called “the angel’s share” because it evaporates into the air (and, as whiskey drinkers will argue, it then floats up to whiskey-loving angels).
This alcohol is often “romanticized by distilleries,” The Journal noted, but it’s not as pleasant for homeowners and business owners living in the area: The vapors are exceedingly pungent and they actually cause property damage over a long period of time. Even the most energy-efficient HVAC system isn’t likely to have the typical 12-year lifespan when it’s constantly working to filter out pollutants, residents have argued, and this could mean a 15% increase in annual energy costs.
Even more worrisome is the growth of a fungus called Baudonia compniacensis, otherwise known as “whiskey fungus,” which grows when ethanol vapors mix with condensation.
After receiving many complaints from homeowners who had discovered the whiskey fungus in their homes, the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District decided to take action against Diageo. In July 2013, the whiskey maker agreed to empty out its warehouses on Miller Lane by the beginning of 2016; the products would be moved to another warehouse about a half mile away, and any leftover products would be moved to warehouses in Tennessee.
According to WFPL News 89.3, residents who live close to the warehouses are still struggling to keep the whiskey fungus at bay; Diageo’s whiskey production, combined with whiskey production from Brown-Forman and Heaven Hill distilleries, contributes to over 6,000 tons of ethanol released each year in Jefferson County.
“It has got to stop,” said attorney William McMurry, who is representing the Louisville residents. “We live in a modern era. We have technology we believe can be put in play that will eliminate the ethanol from Jefferson County residents having to suffer through it completely, 100 percent.”
McMurry is also representing residents in similar lawsuits that seek damages against Brown-Forman and Heaven Hill in Jefferson County, against Buffalo Trace and Jim Beam in Franklin County, against Diageo (again) in Scotland, and against Cruzan and Diageo (yet again) in the Virgin Islands.