Mead community questioning closed ethanol plant cleanup efforts

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 9:25 PM CST
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MEAD, Neb. (WOWT) - Residents of a small Nebraska town and a watchdog group are concerned about the lasting effects of a closed ethanol plant and are wondering why cleanup is taking so long.

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy says it has a good handle on the safe cleanup happening at a contaminated Alt-En plant west of the Omaha-metro that was shut down last February. But neighbors and advocates are worried about the potential for polluting the water supply and say they think there are much quicker ways to clean up the area.

The department has a website for updates on the cleanup efforts since the state stepped in to shut it down almost a year ago — long after 6 News began investigating complaints from neighbors. A month later, the Nebraska Attorney General sued the company.

A watchdog group alleges AltEn recently sold hundreds of bags of bio-char — to a Kansas landscaper — from the site that’s not meant to be put back on the land.

“That’s concerning that AltEn is the gift that keeps on giving. Not only are we creating collateral damage of our citizens in Saunders County — but not we’re passing on that gift to Kansas,” said State Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue.

Now, neighbors say they’re concerned about the slow pace of the cleanup — and that certain piles of contaminated waste remain without any sort of liner protecting it from seeping into the soil.

“We don’t know how much damage was done. So we never will probably,” said Al Davis of the Perivallon Group.

The watchdog group also said Thursday it still can’t believe the company received $200,000 in COVID-19 relief funds when it was way behind on property taxes.

Last week, the state energy department outline its plans to protect the site this winter in an eight-minute video.

Neighbors don’t understand why there seems to be no sense of urgency from the state or the seed companies helping with the cleanup.

Blood introduced four bills this week aimed at the clean-up and the ramifications. One of them would extend the deadline to seek damages for someone who gets sick way down the road.

Correction: A previous version of this story contained an incorrect url in one of the reference links. 6 News regrets the error.

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