Second half of Barton warehouse collapses

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Final fall means estimated 18,000 barrels of spirits potentially lost

By Forrest Berkshire, Editor




A partially collapsed Barton 1792 warehouse completed its fall Wednesday afternoon, sending another 9,000 barrels of alcoholic spirits crashing to the ground uphill of a tributary to the Beech Fork River.

Dispatch received the call of the warehouse collapse at around 2:20 p.m., Nelson County Emergency Management spokesman Milt Spalding said. The Bardstown Fire Department’s first responders reached the site five minutes later.

The company released a statement Wednesday evening and said no runoff from the collapse entered any waterways,

Bardstown Mayor Dick Heaton visited the scene shortly after the collapse and said the company was handling it well.

“As far as containment, it’s a much better situation this time,” Heaton told The Standard shortly after he left.

Heaton said containment pools and berms were already in place after the first collapse on June 22. Crews were on site pumping the spirits into tanker trunks that would then be taken to a holding tank at the distillery before finally being disposed of, Heaton said. He said the spilled spirits would not be processed by the city’s system.

A company representative said the company had known the second collapse was a possibility.

“As a result of the first collapse on June 22, the Barton 1792 Distillery team was prepared and had equipment on site to address any further problems from the debris from the initial collapse or from the structure that remained standing,” Amy Preske, a company public relations manager, said in a press release.

Preske said in the release that workers were unable to safely secure the half of the warehouse that had been standing since June 22. The first collapse had basically split the warehouse in two, with one whole side falling away and leaving the other standing with barrels and beams exposed.

There were an estimated 9,000 barrels remaining in the warehouse when it fell Wednesday. Preske said of the 18,000 total that had been in the warehouse, the company was unsure how many would be salvageable.

The company is also unsure what caused the initial collapse.

“Officials expect it to be weeks before the root cause is determined,” Preske said.

Barton produces mostly bourbon but also distills other spirits. The company did not say whether all of the barrels contained bourbon or another spirit.

Crews from the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection and Kentucky’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources were on the scene assessing any potential environmental hazards while crews contracted with the company were working to retain the fluids, according to officials.

The first collapse of Warehouse No. 30, about 12 days earlier, on the Barton 1792 Distillery campus in Bardstown, dumped about 9,000 barrels onto the hillside. While some barrels remained intact, many burst or leaked their contents onto the ground. A typical bourbon barrel has a capacity of 53 gallons. With Wednesday’s collapse bringing the total to an estimated 18,000 barrels, that is the potential for 954,000 gallons of spirits potentially seeping into the ground and local waterway. The actual amount would likely be much less since some barrels survived and the contents of a bourbon barrel evaporates as it ages.

The company is facing possible citations from the state connected to the first collapse for failure to notify the state in a timely manner and for a fish kill in the Beech Fork and Withrow Creek, which is believed connected to spirits in the water.