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Mead resident says toxic waste from AltEn plant is cause for serious concern

Mead resident says toxic waste from AltEn plant is cause for serious concern (NTV News)
Mead resident says toxic waste from AltEn plant is cause for serious concern (NTV News)
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Smells and sickness across the community, in Mead folks have been dealing with significant problems caused by toxic byproducts produced at the local AltEn Ethanol plant and community members say despite their best efforts, the plant has taken little to no steps to remedy the situation.

Residents say the issues in Mead first began years ago in 2018.

Jody Weible, a longtime Mead resident and former planning commission member says that the problems first began after the city approved plans for a new ethanol plant.

"I was on the planning commission and we issued a permit for a company to do an ethanol plant out there. They were gonna use the methane gas from the cattle to power the plant and the leftovers would be fed back to the cattle. They went bankrupt...and this new company came in and we thought they would be using field corn, they did not," said Weible.

According to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy the new AltEn ethanol plant uses a unique method of producing its ethanol, only utilized in one other Ethanol plant in Kansas.

Using grains that have been treated with Neonicotinoids , better known as Neonics.

Neonics are a neurotoxic insecticide, and producing ethanol from grain treated with Neonics produces a green, toxic byproduct which Weible believes is causing health problems across the community.

"I forwarded at least 50 complaints to NDEE about people not being able to be outside, runners almost pass out, somebody got a nosebleed driving by. I have coughed for three years it never goes away its environmental there is nothing we can do," said Weible.

Weibel says her concerns about the plant have continued to grow as the problem with toxic byproducts continues, something that she fears could threaten the water supply in Mead and surrounding communities.

"Im three quarters of a mile away the water goes southeast so our water is fine but our well is only 40 feet deep, they have tens of thousands of tons of this stuff sitting on the bare ground, no barriers no cement. Its not rocket science its gonna leech into one of Nebraska's biggest aquifers," said Weible.

The complaints about the plant have made their way to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.

According to NDEE public records in 2020 alone there were 5 different complaints filed because of the waste with the facility being notified multiple times it was in violation of regulations regarding special waste.

In addition the NDEE has denied multiple special waste permits for AltEn citing the dangers of the material and lack of information provided by AltEn in its applications, AltEn has also failed an NDEE inspection as recent as September of 2020 and the department has given the plant until March to reach compliance.

We reached out to NDEE for a comment and they provided a statement saying:

"We take our responsibility to protect Nebraskans’ health and the environment seriously. This is an ongoing investigation and NDEE is working with all the tools available to make sure this facility returns to compliance. Outside of the administrative record, we have no further comment at this time."

We also reached out to the manager of the AltEn plant to speak about the toxic waste, however he refused to speak on the record about the situation and said he would send a written statement.

We have yet to receive that statement.

For Weibel and the residents of Mead its now a waiting game to see either what action the plant will take to remedy the situation, or what action the state will take to enforce regulations.

But Jody says while they wait, the community continues to suffer.

"We have had people come to look at houses to buy in Mead they come on a bad day and say "hey we cant live here it stinks." We have businesses that don't want to move here because it stinks and it will drive customers away. We are a little town we cant handle that," said Weible.

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This is a developing story, stay tuned to NTV news as we will continue to follow the issues in Mead and provide any updates as new information becomes available.

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