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Warehouse collapses at Barton

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By Randy Patrick

A warehouse collapsed at Barton 1792 Distillery Friday morning, affecting an estimated 9,000 barrels of bourbon, but there were no injuries.

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Nelson County Emergency Management Director Joe Prewitt and Bardstown Fire Chief Billy Mattingly said their concern was that whiskey could run into a tributary of the Beech Fork River about 250 feet away.

State environmental officials were contacted and arrived on scene just after 2 p.m. to assess the situation.

Mattingly said that half of the building collapsed “length-wise” and the other half was leaning and starting to bow.

“Right now we’re trying to determine why it collapsed,” he said Friday afternoon. “There was nobody in the building at the time. We’re very fortunate in that.”

The accident brought down an electrical service line, but Mattingly said the power was shut down to the whole area. There was no immediate fire hazard.

The immediate concern for Prewitt and Mattingly was the whiskey flowing into the streams.

Mattingly said the warehouse, No. 30, was on a steep hill and firefighters were unable to tell whether there was whiskey in the water. He said the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office was going to provide a drone to determine the extent of contamination.

Mattingly said there is a 12-foot deep basement under the warehouse, and first responders hoped most of the bourbon went into the basement.

Just before 5 p.m., Prewitt said first responders had just cleared the scene and retention ponds were being dug to capture the bourbon.

Friday evening, Amy Preske, a spokeswoman for Sazarec, Barton’s parent company, said the warehouse, No. 30, was built in the 1940s and held about 18,000 barrels of various distilled products of different ages.

“We believe no more than half the barrels are impacted,” she said in a press release.

She said that representatives of the state Department for Environmental Protection were on site and the company’s employees had implemented actions to minimize environmental risk.

The incident won’t affect normal operations or tourism activities, Preske said. The distillery expects to be open for normal hours on Saturday and resume normal business operations Monday.

Barton 1792’s normal “summer shutdown” began last week, which  is a period of repairs and routine maintenance, and the incident won’t affect production once the shutdown ends as planned.

Preske said it may be several days or weeks before a full assessment of the damage to the warehouse is complete.