The AltEn environmental catastrophe continues.
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The AltEn Environmental Catastrophe in Mead, Nebraska
Indigenous panel discussion of AltEn environmental disaster
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has launched a public portal keep the Mead community, Saunders County residents and interested citizens informed about significant activities related to the cleanup and mitigation actions at the AltEn ethanol facility.
On Monday night, about 60 residents met at a local church to learn more about the state of Nebraska’s litigation against the ethanol plant. Residents also heard from university researchers who want to study the long-term health effects of exposure to tens of thousands of tons of seed treated with multiple forms of neonicotinoid pesticides and fungicides.
Experts who spoke Monday highlighted the longer the piles of treated distillers grains remain, the more the neonics and fungicides leach into the ground and potentially into the water table. Neonics are relatively water soluble and can flow into ground water, said John Schalles, a biology professor at Creighton University.
“The longer that sits on the ground and in lagoons that are leaking, the worse it gets,” he said.
The seed was treated with varying combinations of insecticides and fungicides.
“We don’t know a whole lot about the toxicology of fungicides,” Schalles said.
Nebraskans Worry About Toxic Seed Piles As Ethanol Plant’s Pollution Problems Stack Up, Owners Look to Transfer Feedyard Permit by Chris Clayton, DTN, Progressive Farmer, 4/13/2021
On March 1, Nebraska’s attorney general threw the book at AltEn, alleging the 24-million-gallon per year ethanol maker near Mead spent most of the last five years making an environmental mess of its biofuels plant and the surrounding rural community.
In a 97-page civil complaint, the state detailed 18 “causes of action” against AltEn ranging from “operating a solid waste management facility” — AltEn now is “storing” an estimated “84,000 tons of distiller’s grain on-site” that contain “elevated concentrations of pesticides” — to “discharge of a pollutant into waters of the state without a permit.”
As explained here last month, the allegations stem from AltEn’s unique ethanol business: in a sales pitch to potential customers last summer it explained that it was “processing 600,000 to 900,000 pounds of treated seed into ethanol daily,” according to the Lincoln Journal Star.
That ethanol feedstock — treated agricultural seed instead the usual farm-raised corn – “created tens of thousands of tons of pesticide-contaminated byproduct” that the plant tried to rid itself of in, what the state now alleges, manners both legal and illegal.
Farm & Food File: The AltEn mess gets even messier By Alan Guebert, AgriNews, April 07, 2021
Unlike most ethanol plants that buy corn for processing, AltEn uses surplus seeds that it receives at no cost. The seeds are often coated with agricultural chemicals, making their leftover residue unsuitable for use as an animal feed supplement.
Jim Macy, the director of the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, said his agency doesn’t believe the chemicals have migrated into the soil or groundwater in Mead. Officials were testing the area to confirm that it is safe.
But Macy said testing of a water in a ditch near the plant showed high levels of neonicotinoids, a group of insecticides that have been blamed for killing large numbers of bees.
Nebraska regulators sue ethanol plant, citing pollution By Grant Schulte, AgriNews, March 20, 2021