Sunday, March 9 2014 8:35 PM EDT2014-03-10 00:35:58 GMT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WDRB) -- The black soot covers cars, homes and property in Louisville neighborhoods near warehouses where aging whiskey barrels are stored is believed to be whiskey fungus, a non-toxic mold but an "unsightly" problem for residents, the city's pollution agency said Tuesday.
The Air Pollution Control District issued two notices of violation against liquor company, Diageo Americas Supply Inc., accusing it of spreading odors and what's known as "whiskey fungus."
ACPD says it's not a toxic mold but is being spread by the ethanol emissions from warehouses where aging whiskey barrels are stored.
"It is a nuisance. It's getting on people's property - their cars, houses and outdoor furniture. It's very persistent. It feeds off of ethanol vapors which we believe are coming from this particular warehouse," said Thomas Nord, a spokesman for APCD.
A citation against Diageo was made public Tuesday. The city wants the company to stop the spread of the fungus or face fines.
"Today's results, it may have not been a knock out punch, but it sure was a stunning blow to it," said Joe Billy, a property owner who lives within two miles of three distillery warehouses.
Joe Billy is among several people suing three whiskey distilleries - including Diageo - claiming their ethanol emissions are helping spread the fungus.
The black spots that appear on Joe Billy's home, car and siding won't wash off easily. He's spent thousands on improving his home, including buying mold resistant insulation.
Attorneys for Diageo want the lawsuit thrown out claiming unsupported facts. Joe says he's left fighting mold, fungus and third element.
"Fear. It does nothing but instill fear and you try to look for solutions... what can I do to stop this?"
In a response to a lawsuit, Diageo attorneys claim the arguments against their alleged negligence are unsupported and don't jive with Kentucky law. They also claim that Billy's home improvements topping more than $60,000 go against "common sense."
Diageo sent the following written statement:
"We are a longstanding member of the community and take these allegations very seriously. We have requested the incident reports related to the APCD notice and will review them closely. As we have stated previously, the appearance of a black substance on some buildings and structures is due to a naturally occurring common mold that is found widely in the environment, including areas not related to whiskey production."