Plan treats Nebraska ethanol plant as EPA Superfund site

KETV NewsWatch 7 has learned that plans are underway to treat an environmentally hazardous waste pile in Mead, Nebraska, with a protective shell-like cover that has been used at four EPA Superfund sites across the country. A letter from engineering consulting firm New Fields of Rockland, Maine outlines plans for a group of scientists and citizens studying cleanup efforts at the AltEn ethanol plant about 30 miles east. west of Omaha. These community members formed a watchdog group called the Perivallon Group. Al Davis, a former Nebraska state senator, is a member of that team and a lobbyist for the Nebraska chapter of the Sierra Club. “I think they’re going to put a cap on the site and say we’ve done everything we can,” said Davis, who has reviewed the plans in depth for months. In recent months, under the supervision of the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, environmental cleanup crews have piled contaminated corn waste at the AltEn plant site. Next week, crews will spray more than 16 acres of the pile with a mixture of clay, cement and fiber called Posi-shell, to create a cover that will hold the contaminated corn remains in place for up to 10 years. A helicopter will be used to apply coverage to parts of the site that are not accessible with a truck-mounted spray system. “It’s a really huge and dangerous mess,” said Dr. John Schalles, professor of biology and director of the environmental science program at Creighton University and an active member of the Perivallon group. Schalles is seriously concerned about the combination of a multitude of chemicals in the pile of wet cakes as they break down and form new compounds and become more volatile. He fears the cap will crack over time and allow more dangerous chemicals to leak out of the heap. He is also concerned about the purity of the Todd Valley aquifer near the site and the fact that there is no revetment under the pile. The aquifer supplies the Valley and Lincoln areas with groundwater. Schalles said that while the cap will improve the situation, the underlying volatility is to blame. “I call it a witches’ brew because it almost goes beyond environmental toxicology to predict what mixes with what,” Schalles said. A drainage system will extract liquid contaminants from the heap and guide the leached chemicals to a lagoon. , where the mixture will be processed. AltEn has requested a plan for the discharge of treated wastewater on agricultural land in this area. Currently, approximately 150 million gallons of wastewater are stored on the property. “If I was a farmer, I would refuse to let this happen. I should know what is in that water. In light of what happened there, why would anyone be ready to get water there,” Davis said. The letter says the same Posi-shell system was used for EPA Superfund sites at the Hanford Nuclear Waste Site, Iron King Mine, Quanta Resources and American Cyanamid, located in Washington State, Arizona and the New Jersey. The AltEn site is not an EPA Superfund site – these allow the EPA to regularly monitor groundwater, air quality, soil samples, and runoff for years and examine the impact on human health. “It could be handled better if it could become a Superfund site,” Schalles said. This Nebraska site is being cleaned up by the seed companies that supplied the chemically treated corn and the Perivallon Group said there are no plans for long-term monitoring of waterways, soil, wildlife or impact on plants and people off the property “It’s kind of like the fox watching the chicken coop,” Davis said. AltEn, an ethanol production plant, was shut down in February 2021 after contaminated wastewater leaked from the facility and damaged containment lagoons. . In addition, 84,000 tonnes of chemically treated seed corn by-products were stored in piles on the property, and landowners complained about the stench and the impact on their animals, water and soil. health. The pile, which has grown and been exposed to the elements for six years, has transformed in places from a slimy green product into a giant pile of lumpy brown material resembling peat moss. and a burning type acrid stench in your sinuses. “Schalles said some people describe it as ‘the smell of death. processed by the ethanol manufacturer was treated with pesticides and fungicides and donated to AltEn for free by the seed corn growers. For six years, the company piled the pesticide-laden byproduct on company property. A spokesperson for the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy said that due to ongoing litigation, they could not comment on the situation. In March 2021, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson filed a 97-page complaint in Saunders County District Court alleging that AlEn LLC repeatedly violated the Environmental Protection Act of state and failed to properly dispose of the pesticide-treated corn and sewage. The civil lawsuit alleges 18 causes of action against AltEn for violations. In a recent letter, the NDEE told State Senator Carol Blood that they could see all project updates and information on their website, denying her and the scientists access to the property. private. The letter from New Fields Engineering indicates that production of the protective cover will begin on January 25.

KETV NewsWatch 7 has learned that plans are underway to treat an environmentally hazardous waste pile in Mead, Nebraska, with a protective shell-like cover that has been used at four EPA Superfund sites across the country.

A letter from engineering consulting firm New Fields of Rockland, Maine outlines plans for a group of scientists and citizens studying cleanup efforts at the AltEn ethanol plant about 30 miles east. west of Omaha. These community members formed a watchdog group called the Perivallon Group. Al Davis, a former Nebraska state senator, is a member of that team and a lobbyist for the Nebraska chapter of the Sierra Club.

“I think they’re going to put a cap on the site and say we’ve done everything we can,” said Davis, who has reviewed the plans in depth for months.

In recent months, under the supervision of the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, environmental cleanup crews have piled contaminated corn waste at the AltEn plant site. Next week, crews will spray more than 16 acres of the pile with a mixture of clay, cement and fiber called Posi-shell, to create a cover that will hold the contaminated corn remains in place for up to 10 years. A helicopter will be used to apply coverage to parts of the site that are not accessible with a truck-mounted spray system.

“It’s a really huge and dangerous mess,” said Dr. John Schalles, professor of biology and director of the environmental science program at Creighton University and an active member of the Perivallon group.

Google Maps

Aerial view of the Mead, Nebraska, AltEn plant

Schalles is seriously concerned about the combination of a multitude of chemicals in the pile of wet cakes as they break down and form new compounds and become more volatile. He fears the cap will crack over time and allow more dangerous chemicals to leak out of the heap. He is also concerned about the purity of the Todd Valley aquifer near the site and the fact that there is no revetment under the pile. The aquifer supplies the Valley and Lincoln areas with groundwater.

Schalles said that while the cap will improve the situation, the underlying volatility is to blame.

“I call it witches’ brew because it’s almost beyond the reach of environmental toxicology to predict what mixes with what,” Schalles said.

A drainage system will extract liquid contaminants from the heap and guide the leached chemicals to a lagoon, where the mixture will be treated. AltEn has requested a plan for the discharge of treated wastewater on agricultural land in this area. Currently, approximately 150 million gallons of wastewater are stored on the property.

“If I was a farmer, I would refuse to let this happen. I should know what is in that water. In light of what happened there, why would anyone be ready to get water there,” Davis said.

The letter says the same Posi-shell system was used for EPA Superfund sites at the Hanford Nuclear Waste Site, Iron King Mine, Quanta Resources and American Cyanamid, located in Washington State, Arizona and the New Jersey.

The AltEn site is not an EPA Superfund site – these allow the EPA to regularly monitor groundwater, air quality, soil samples, and runoff for years and examine the impact on human health.

“It could be handled better if it could become a Superfund site,” Schalles said.

This Nebraska site is being cleaned up by the seed companies that supplied the chemically treated corn and the Perivallon Group said there are no plans for long-term monitoring of waterways, soil, wildlife or impact on plants and people off the property.

“It’s kind of like the fox looking at the chicken coop,” Davis said.

AltEn, an ethanol production plant, was shut down in February 2021 after contaminated wastewater leaked from the facility and damaged containment lagoons. In addition, 84,000 tonnes of chemically treated seed corn by-products were stored in piles on the property, and landowners complained about the stench and the impact on their animals, water and soil. health. The pile, which has grown and been exposed to the elements for six years, has transformed in places from a slimy green product into a giant pile of clumped brown material resembling peat moss.

Davis described the smell as “a combination of rotten and acrid burning type stench in your sinuses”.

Schalles said some people describe it as “the smell of death.”

Some estimates show that the volume of chemical-laden wet-cake corn by-products would fill a football stadium up to 150 feet high.

The corn processed by the ethanol manufacturer was treated with pesticides and fungicides and donated to AltEn free of charge by the seed corn growers. For six years, the company piled the pesticide-laden byproduct on company property.

A spokesperson for the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy said that due to ongoing litigation, they could not comment on the situation. In March 2021, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson filed a 97-page complaint in Saunders County District Court alleging that AlEn LLC repeatedly violated the Environmental Protection Act of state and failed to properly dispose of the pesticide-treated corn and sewage.

The civil lawsuit alleges 18 causes of action against AltEn for violations.

In a recent letter, the NDEE told State Senator Carol Blood that they could see all project updates and information on their website, denying her and the scientists access to the property. private.

The letter from New Fields Engineering indicates that production of the protective cover will begin on January 25.