The Black Fungus Returns – With A Lawyer

by Oliver Klimek on September 3, 2012

Remember last year, when inhabitants of Tullibody, Clackmannanshire complained that the nearby Diageo warehouse complex was causing black fungus to damage their property? Even after a connection between the growth of black fungus species Baudoinia Compniacensis with alcohol was proven, Diageo continued to deny a direct connection to their whisky.

Now US lawyer William F McMurray is planning to bring this issue before a Scottish court. Mr. McMurray has already done likewise in Kentucky where the black fungus seems to enjoy favourable living conditions in the proximity of bourbon distilleries. Diageo is involved in Kentucky as well because they own the Bulleit distillery there, and they already have reiterated their statemtent that the fungus was basically a generic mix of organisms that could be found in other places too.

Now, does anyone seriously believe that there really is no connection between whisky and black fungus? You may see fungus in other places, but how come it grows so massively at and around whisky distilleries and warehouses? I have seen many ‘black’ distilleries, I have also seen the fungus-blackened walls of the vast Diageo Blackgrange warehouse complex, and I have seen lorries there that were entirely covered in that black stuff.

To defend their case, Diageo better hurry up and deliver a scientifically waterproof explanation how black fungus growth can be excessive near whisky distilleries and warehouses yet not be fueled by alcohol vapours. I personally have no doubt whatsovever, though, that the alleged correlation between alcohol and black fungus indeed exists and can be demonstrated through investigation of an independent laboratory.

I am by now means a law expert, so I am not sure how a court would rule about this case. When you live near a farm you should not complain about the smell either, and when your house is next to a church you have to accept the noise of ringing bells, so when living next to a distillery you may just have to accept the fungus.

But Diageo is applying the same scandal management tactics here that have failed so miserably so many times in politics and business: denying the obvious until there is no way out anymore.

Don’t get me wrong: Trying now to squeeze money out of whisky companies after decades and decades of being subjected to fungus has a bad smell to it, and it is not my intention to take sides here. There is the law, and there is justice, and not always the two are aligned.

If Diageo loses this threatened court battle, whisky may become more expensive. Should we all defend them now because of that? I don’t know if I am in a minority here, but I would be happier to pay a pound more for my whisky just for knowing a company is honest in doing their business than to pay this additional pound to cover massive marketing and advertising campaigns. I was brought up the old-fashoined way: stand up for what you have done and clean up the mess you have left. I would appreciate it, if the whisky industry was acting likewise.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kelly Donovan September 3, 2012 at 3:25 pm

I lived in an upstate-NY area where IBM lay waste to the land after a multi-decade residence, thanks to its no-accountability dumping of hazardous materials. It angers me to no end when corporations weasel their way out of cleaning up the by-products of manufacture because it cuts into profits, make the product more expensive, etc. Whisky, or at least good whisky, is expensive. So tack on a few more dollars, euros, pounds to each bottle to allow for the black fungus to be cleaned and the area residents to live in peace and health. Then figure out a maintenance system to keep it in check. Honestly. Is the use of common sense becoming a super power? Or has the sound bite, “Greed…is good,” become the guiding principle in all business?

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