LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A husband and wife are suing a small rural county over the actions of a brand that helped make Tennessee famous around the world.
Christi and Patrick Long blame Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrel warehouses in the county for the black fungus growing on their wedding event venue’s property. They say Lincoln County allowed Jack Daniel’s warehouses to be built and operated without receiving the proper permits.
“I think a lot of Lincoln County essentially don’t want our county to look like a coal mine,” said Patrick Long.
Long and his wife say the fungus is killing their trees, covering their yards and painting road signs black.
Vanderbilt biology professor Antonis Rokas says black fungus is sometimes called “whiskey fungus” because it feeds off ethanol vapor and grows outside of distilleries and barrel warehouses.
“It has this ability to sense ethanol in the environment, alcohol, it has a liking for it,” Rokas said.
While Rokas says there have been no studies proving this fungus is harmful to people’s health, it has not been thoroughly researched.
However, Rokas does say he wouldn’t want it growing in his yard, and cleaning it is probably difficult.
“My manor has a beautiful copper roof and it just coats it, it turns it black,” Christi Long said of her event space.
With six warehouses built, another being constructed, and the Longs anticipating more to be built, they are worried for the future of their county.
“We are going to look like Jurassic Park and I use that a lot because it’s going to be ugly and dreary,” Christi Long said.
A county judge has issued a temporary halt to the construction of Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrel warehouses, but the Longs want to see the company install an air filtration system to reduce the emissions.
The Longs say they are concerned about the potential health risk of working in an area with a lot of ethanol in the air.
Patrick Long says he spends about $10,000 a year to clean the fungus. He said in addition to powerwashing the manor, he has to mix water and bleach to clean certain spots and vegetation.
“You have to use your fingers and a rag and you’d have to take each individual leaf and clean it with a rag and water to clear the fungus off of all your plants,” he said.
It’s time and money he wishes he was spending drinking and buying whiskey.
The Lincoln County mayor said he has no comment at this time because of the lawsuit.
Jack Daniel’s parent company Brown-Forman said in a statement it is not dangerous.
“This naturally occurring microflora has been around as long as whiskey itself. It is found throughout the environment, near distilleries and in areas completely unrelated to aged whiskey production. This slow-growing microflora has various food sources, including alcohol vapor. While some may not like the way it looks, based on the information available, we believe it is not harmful to individuals. We are committed to protecting the environment and the safety and health of our employees and neighbors.”