The AltEn Environmental Catastrophe in Mead, Nebraska

One of the people I met on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March is Mahmud Fitil, who told me stories related to tar sands spills. He said at that time no commercial lab would analyze the water samples from areas of tar sands spills, because they feared repercussions from the government. Mahmud went to the Doon, Iowa, train derailment and oil spill in June, 2018. He said there was little activity related to the cleanup. The smell was worse than that of raw gasoline, causing some to vomit.

This is a photo of Mahmud in front of a valve of the Dakota Access Pipeline I took during the March. He works with, Ní Btháska Stand and Pipeline Watchdogs: Monitoring Construction and Operations, which monitors pipeline construction and operations (see more at the end of this).

Thanks to the work of Mahmud and the pipeline watchdogs, this disastrous environmental catastrophe in Nebraska is now being reported on.

Mahmud Fitil

The AltEn Ethanol LLC plant just outside of Mead, NE has been using pesticide laden seed corn to create its product. Later it discharged 4 million gallons of pesticide contaminated wastewater generated by the facility when a pipe broke on February 12, 2021.

Great Plains Action Society and Ní Btháska Stand Collective interviewed Mead resident, Jody Weible, who has been actively organizing a resistance to AltEn for years. The Ní Btháska Stand Collective has provided important footage of the site that needs to be seen to be believed. The images are heartbreaking. See the video below.

Conventional ethanol plants utilize field grains as source material, however, AltEn began using seed grains pretreated with pesticide and fungicide. Big-Ag production companies, such as Bayer and Syngenta, have used this plant as a dumping ground for their pesticide-laden toxic waste. The end product after producing ethanol is a toxic solid waste that AltEn has been marketing as ground conditioner until the Nebraska Department of Agriculture issued a cease and desist order. That’s when AltEn began stockpiling tons of this toxic solid waste on their property.

Owner-operators of AltEn Ethanol plant also own and operate Mead Cattle Company on the same premises. Important to note that a Hereford, TX based Champion Feeders acquired a conditional use permit signaling their acquisition of Mead Cattle Company in the beginning of April 2021. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture remains silent on the fact that cattle, intended for human consumption, is most likely grazing on pesticide laden land.

EPA guidelines state that 70 PPB of Neonicotinoids in the environment is a safe level, however surrounding AltEn, the levels measure an outrageous 240,000 PPB.

The breach traveled 4.5 miles over the Todd Valley and Oglala Aquifers, just short of the Platte River where Lincoln’s municipal water intake is located.

The plant began operations in 2015 and local bee colonies started collapsing in 2017. It is estimated that 1.5 – 2.16 million bees have died, just at the University of Nebraska Bee Lab alone.

This catastrophe also occurred after years of serious complaints from local residents about the acrid smell causing nausea, nosebleeds, upper respiratory issues, headaches and discharge from the eyes.

Water is life, but water saturated with hazardous neurotoxic pesticides is a harbinger of death. Tell Nebraska Legislators to pass LB507, which prevents the use of pretreated pesticide-laden grains as source material for the production of ethanol.

Editing and arranging of the following video: Jack Meggers, Anatomical Heart Films

Great Plains Action Society


There’s a red flag here’: how an ethanol plant is dangerously polluting a US village. Situation in Mead, Nebraska, where AltEn has been processing seed coated with fungicides and insecticides, is a warning sign, experts say

The company, called AltEn, is supposed to be helpful to the environment, using high-starch grains such as corn to annually churn out about 25m gallons of ethanol, a practice regulators generally hail as an environmentally friendly source for auto fuel. Ethanol plants typically also produce a byproduct called distillers grains to sell as nutritious livestock feed.

But unlike most of the other 203 US ethanol plants, AltEn has been using seed coated with fungicides and insecticides, including those known as neonicotinoids, or “neonics”, in its production process.

Company officials have advertised AltEn as a “recycling” location where agricultural companies can rid themselves of excess supplies of pesticide-treated seeds, a strategy that gave AltEn free supplies for its ethanol, but also left it with a waste product too pesticide-laden to feed to animals.

Instead, AltEn has been accumulating thousands of pounds of a smelly, lime-green mash of fermented grains, distributing some to farm fields as a “soil conditioner” and accumulating the rest on the grounds of its plant.

It is that waste that some researchers say is dangerously polluting water and soil and probably also posing a health threat to animals and people. They point to testing ordered by state officials that found neonics in AltEn waste at levels many times higher than what is considered safe.

Some of the levels recorded are just off the charts

Dan Raichel

“Some of the levels recorded are just off the charts,” said Dan Raichel, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which has been working with academics and other environmental protection groups to monitor the situation in Mead. “If I were living in that area with those levels of neonics going into the water and the environment I would be concerned for my own health.”

There’s a red flag here: how an ethanol plant is dangerously polluting a US village by Carey Gillam, The Guardian, January 10, 2021

Report: Spill From Mead Ethanol Plant Likely 4M Gallons
A report by state environmental officials says a frozen underground pipe that burst last week likely spilled 4 million gallons of wastewater from a troubled ethanol plant in eastern Nebraska.
By Associated Press, Wire Service Content Feb. 19, 2021

On Feb. 12, plant officials reported the accidental discharge that happened after a frozen pipe on the side of a large digester tank burst, releasing manure from the nearby feedlot and thin stillage from the ethanol plant.

Because the plant uses treated seed instead of harvested grain, it’s likely the thin stillage is contaminated with pesticides, which have been detected in the plant’s lagoons and other waste byproducts at high concentrations.

Pipeline Watchdogs

We are the watchdogs for pipeline construction and operations. We look for permit violations, leaks and other problems associated with fossil fuel pipelines once they’ve been given the go-ahead by either states or federal government. Once pipelines have been given permits, there is little to no monitoring of construction or operations. It is up to us. Since the state and federal governments refuse to provide real oversight, we have to be the watchdogs to protect water, land and future generations. We created a system of pipeline construction watchdogs in Iowa to monitor Dakota Access’ construction and were able to get evidence of numerous permit violations. We were able to stop construction on several occasions. Similarly, construction on the Rover pipeline (like DAPL, it is owned by Energy Transfer Partners ) and the Mariner East 2 pipeline have been shut down because of drilling fluid spills. If you live near a fossil fuel pipeline, become a watchdog and hold the polluters accountable!

Pipeline Watchdogs: Monitoring Construction and Operations


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