Furious Tennessee residents have been blanketed by black ‘whiskey fungus’ after Jack Daniel’s failed to stop emissions leaking from its barrel houses.
The mold is fueled by ethanol vapor releasing into the air, leading nearby properties, road signs and vehicles to be routinely covered in the sooty smog.
DailyMail.com visited the scene to find the fungus has wreaked havoc on the small town of Lynchburg, which is under the shadow of the booze giant’s iconic distillery.
Many are also questioning whether the fungus is impacting their health and destroying the surrounding air quality, leading one defiant local to wage a legal war to bring the growing mold to a halt.
Dubbed ‘whiskey fungus’, the mold has coated the small Tennessee community since the emissions first began leaking from the Jack Daniel’s plants in 2018, before ramping up in recent years as the company expands its barrel house operation.
Whiskey fungus has blanketed a small Tennessee community, causing huge damage while raising fears over its potential health risks
One resident said he has had to pay roughly $10,000 to power wash the fungus off his home
The sooty smog has enraged Tennessee residents after their outdoor spaces became covered
A nearby woodland has been coated in the growth for years, and residents have expressed concern over the damage it may have caused to local wildlife
The fungus has spread over a mile from each of the barrel houses across Lincoln and Moore Counties, as it is able to latch onto outdoor surfaces after being exposed to ethanol vapor.
And infuriated locals are now demanding the company is held responsible for the damage to their town, which has grown so prevalent that officials no longer clean street signs and simply replace them after they become illegible.
Patrick Long, who lived across the street from the barrel houses with his wife, won a lawsuit Wednesday forcing Jack Daniel’s to cease and desist construction of new barrel houses in Lincoln County.
But while he said it was a victory, he told DailyMail.com the ruling was ‘really more of a delay tactic’ of between 60 to 90 days as the community battles to stop the rot.
He added that the Lynchburg community is dominated by the Jack Daniel’s distillery, feeling that its presence throughout the area and history as an employer in the town could influence support for holding the company responsible.
As the fungus continues to ravage the town, home values have plummeted while the community fears for their health.
‘It’s in the air. And you really, probably don’t want to be breathing that in. But nobody has done a test to determine if it’s actually poisonous,’ Long told Insider.
‘I’m extremely concerned. My wife has breathing problems. One of the neighbors got cancer.’
Local resident Becky Carroll is among those who have tried to bring the issue to the attention of authorities, as she told a 2018 public hearing that she believed the mold had caused severe health issues for herself and her family, including giving her cancer.
‘I think there is a concern for the quality of our lives,’ she said, according to Moore County News.
‘I’m a strong, healthy person and this should not have happened. I can’t prove it was from this ethanol, but somebody needs to prove that it is not.’
The community is demanding air filtration systems, which cost around $300,000, be installed in the barrel houses to stop the ethanol emissions from escaping, an issue that has plagued the immediate area for years.
An environmental impact study is also being sought, as residents continue to be left in the dark over the health risks posed by the fungus.
Christi Long, left, and her husband Patrick, right, have launched a legal challenge against the booze giant after the fungus invaded their Lynchburg, Tennessee, community
The mold has been blamed upon the barrel houses on the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee distillery, which has over 100,000 barrels
Residents are fighting back to stop the spread of the mold, which has blanketed outdoor surfaces for miles
The black mold has spiraled out on control in recent times, an issue some are blaming on the Jack Daniel’s company’s expansion of its barrel facilities
Dead cows were spotted in the area that has been overrun by the fungus. It is not known if the mold is the reason
Latching onto any outdoor surface, the fungus has devastated local wildlife and covered homes and street signs
Locals have raised concerns about unknown health risks and poor air quality as a result of the fungus
Buildings and outdoor spaces in the area are now covered in a dingy black soot
Homeowners have been forced to pay to have their properties frequently jet washed due to the fungus
Outdoor surfaces are blanketed by the smog, which clings to vehicles throughout the Lynchburg area
The mold thrives on ethanol vapors that are released from whiskey barrels
While the issue has been plaguing the surrounding area for years, a recent expansion of barrel houses has led locals to claim it has worsened
Long added that he has had to fork out roughly $10,000 to continually power wash his house, as only a powerful cocktail of water and Clorox is able to scrub off the mold.
‘If you have any decent nails on you and you rode it down the side of a tree or a property within a quarter of a mile to a half-mile of these barrel houses, your entire finger will be covered in black fungus,’ he said.
‘You can’t see the tree limbs anymore. Our house, we have to have it pressure-washed four times a year now.’
While the issue reportedly sprang up in 2018, Long said that the fungus was not as prevalent when he bought his Lynchburg home in 2020, as the whiskey company was only using two barrel houses.
But the mold has spiraled out of control since the number of facilities was upped to six, with the company planning on expanding its barrel house operation to 20 in the coming years.
His wife Christi added that she and her husband filed their lawsuit because they believed Jack Daniel’s expanded their number of barrel houses ‘illegally’, saying they intended to bring a permanent halt to the planned constructions.
‘Here we are as District 6 spending our own personal dollars to stop a big corporation holding Lincoln County accountable,’ she told WHNT.
Claims that the units were constructed illegally, as alleged in Long’s lawsuit, have been denied by Jack Daniel’s, who said their facilities are all up to code.
‘All of our warehouses are permitted appropriately,’ said Jack Daniel’s Distillery vice-president Melvin Keebler, during the contentious 2018 public hearing.
He told Caroll that she had their ‘sympathy and empathy’, but defended the industry giant’s operations and insisted the company was compliant with all appropriate regulations.
Named Baudoinia Compniacensis, the fungus was first discovered in 2007, and is able to grow after alcohol evaporates through the pores of whiskey barrels.
The ethanol leakage is a process known as the ‘angels share’ in whiskey production.
In response to the claims, Jack Daniels told DailyMail.com: ‘During the siting and building process, we worked closely with Lincoln County and provided all information asked of us by local officials, as well as adhered to regulatory requirements, strict industry guidelines, and rigorous internal standards that we follow in building warehouses.
‘Anyone who has visited the Jack Daniel Distillery or any other distillery with maturing spirits has likely noticed the presence of microflora.
‘Microflora grows on trees, buildings, and other structures around distilleries and warehouses. Ethanol released from barrels during maturation, also called “the angels’ share,” is just one of microflora’s many food sources.
‘More common in warm and humid environments, it is also found in and around areas unrelated to distilling, such as food processing companies and bakeries, and dams adjacent to bodies of water.
‘While we are accustomed to microflora, we appreciate that some may not like how it looks and the inconvenience it may present. Based on the information available, we believe it is not harmful to individuals or their property.
‘As for air filtration technology that has been offered up by some as a solution, it is easy to say but not possible to do. Barrelhouses require ventilation – and are designed to do so naturally – to allow for the movement of whiskey in and out of new charred oak barrels during the aging process.
‘Existing independent and government research shows that there is no reasonably available control technology to prevent ethanol emissions without significantly adversely affecting the taste and quality of Jack Daniel’s or any other aged whiskey.’
Named Baudoinia Compniacensis, the fungus was first discovered in 2007
The issue has become such a burden on local authorities that they have stopped cleaning street signs, and instead replace them when they are no longer readable
Forests in the area are filled with blackened trees due to the untamed growth
The community is demanding air filtration systems, which cost around $300,000, be installed in the barrel houses to stop the ethanol emissions from escaping
Locals have pointed the finger at booze giant Jack Daniel’s as the reason for the black mold
Lynchburg, Tennessee, is dominated by the Jack Daniel’s distillery, and its iconic presence is felt throughout the community