Fungus linked to whiskey warehouse bedevils rural New York community: ‘No one’s listening to us’

A rural New York community is being overtaken by a sticky fungus that is believed to have come from a nearby whiskey facility, leaving some residents in the area concerned about their health and the preservation of their homes.

Known as whiskey fungus, or Baudoinia compniacensis, the sticky residue has made its mark on Mineville, a hamlet with a population of around 1,300 that’s located in Essex County.

State regulators have tested the mold-like substance and concluded that it is whiskey fungus in some cases. First reported by the Adirondack Explorer, the fungus rapidly spreading throughout Mineville, according to health and environmental officials cited by the outlet, marks the first case of whiskey fungus in the Empire State.

While it’s uncommon in most areas around the country, those who live in neighborhoods near whiskey facilities are no stranger to the spread of the fungus, which covers their homes and vehicles and leaves behind a dark, sometimes speckled substance that can take hours to remove. First documented by scientists in the 1870s, the fungus has recently impacted residents in a Tennessee community near the Jack Daniel’s plant, as well as a neighborhood near the Wiggly Bridge Distillery in Maine.

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The Explorer also noted that the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) tested the substance in some locations and determined it to be whiskey fungus on buildings throughout the community.

Lifelong Mineville residents said the sticky residue is new to the area. The source for it all, according to those living in the area, is the WhistlePig Whiskey storage facility that came to the area in 2017 and is located a half-mile northwest of town. The Vermont-based distillery, according to the Explorer, has “rows of 14,000-square-foot, barn-red buildings” that hold thousands of barrels of aging whiskey.

Founded in 2007, WhistlePig purchased land in Mineville in 2016 from the Essex County Industrial Development Agency (ECIDA) to process, age and bottle its spirits, according to the Explorer. At the location, WhistlePig built seven 14,000 square-foot warehouses and another 14,000 square-foot bottling plant at the Moriah Business Park.

After tediously removing the black substance from their homes earlier this year, some residents in the community told Fox News Digital that it is returning.

Prior to cleaning her home this summer, Sandra Ploufe, an 83-year-old resident in the Grover Hills neighborhood, said her home “was loaded” with the black residue.

“My two sons and husband, they couldn’t do anything about it. We couldn’t do anything about it,” Ploufe recalled. “First my husband went to the town supervisor… and he said he couldn’t do anything about it, but he’s the one who put it in.”

Ploufe also said her husband visited the WhistlePig establishment for assistance with cleaning their home, and he was told to leave the property. “They gave him a hard time,” she said.

Ultimatley, Ploufe said her husband and sons ended up cleaning the home with materials that were purchased from a nearby Lowe’s store. “In June they did that and it started coming back,” she said of the substance.

“They got it all off,” Ploufe said. “Now it’s getting plastered again. It started coming back in August, and there’s several houses that have that stuff on it.”

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Ploufe’s husband, Joe Ploufe, told Fox he had been “all over” trying to find a solution to cleaning the substance from their house and even visited the WhistlePig facility around two years ago to see if they could clean his home for him. He was initially told it would get cleaned, but nothing happened over the course of the next year, according to the Explorer. Upon returning to ask about the cleaning, Ploufe said he was told to leave.

Sandra said she and her husband, who also visited the health department in his venture to assist with house cleaning efforts, have yet to be contacted by local officials about the spread of the fungus in the area and that they and their family are concerned about what they are “breathing” in on a daily basis.

Around the start of the alleged fungus’ spread, Sandra said she and her husband, who both expressed concern over an extension of the facility, were told that their house had mold.

“Every house in Grover Hills has mold,” she questioned. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“You should be here and see it, to see all the houses that have the whiskey fungus,” she added. “We’re all complaining and they’re doing nothing about it. … No one’s listening to us.”

Thomas Scozzafava, who serves as supervisor for the town of Moriah, told the Explorer that WhistlePig is not in violation of any regulations and that the town can’t do much about the situation.

“Some things you’re going to have to live with,” Scozzafava said. “But I agree with the homeowners. If I was next door, I would expect something.”

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As part of the aging process, alcohol stored in whiskey facilities evaporates into a vapor known as “angel’s share.”

“I call it devil’s bulls—,” Harold (Joe) Nephew, a 74-year-old Mineville resident whose home has also been covered by a black substance, told the Explorer. Though he hasn’t had what’s covering his home tested for whiskey fungus, he believes that’s exactly what it is. But for Nephew, cleaning his home is nearly impossible because he has a tracheostomy.

Nephew reportedly spoke to a worker at WhistlePig and was told that the business was not responsible for cleaning outside of 900 feet from the operation. Nephew told the Explorer that WhistlePig determined his home was about 1,000 feet away but agreed to clean his home anyway. So far, he has yet to hear back.

“It’s discouraging,” Nephew said.

WhistlePig, according to the Explorer, insisted that not all the black residue covering the homes is from its operations but that it considers “cleaning buildings in the community on a case-by-case basis.”

“They’re a great neighbor,” Scozzafava said of WhistlePig, according to the outlet. “They pay good wages, property taxes, and they do give a lot back to the community. Unfortunately, one of the issues that has developed is this whiskey fungus.”

Jody Olcott, who serves as the co-director of the ECIDA, told the Explorer that the agency sold WhistlePig additional land next door, where it is constructing eight 14,000 square-foot warehouses. Each of those warehouses, Olcott said, can hold about 14,000 barrels, allowing WhistlePig to age more than 200,000 barrels upon the completion of the buildings.

WhistlePig and Scozzafava did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on the spread of the fungus.

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