MEAD — After a frozen pipe burst in the wee hours of the morning on Feb. 12 at AltEn, the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy requested aid from the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 in Lenexa, Kan., according to a press release from the NDEE.
“The EPA was on site to assess the spill, collect additional samples, give advice on cleanup and help with mitigation efforts,” the release said. “Sampling results could take up to two weeks to return.”
AltEn is an ethanol plant located in Mead. It is one of two ethanol plants in the United States that utilizes treated seed corn to produce ethanol. This treated seed corn and the byproducts created by the ethanol process are being stored on AltEn’s property in large piles near lagoons. Because the corn is treated, it contains many potentially harmful insecticides and fungicides that could affect the groundwater.
The chemicals in these large, green piles have resulted in a stench and many residents of the village contend they have suffered health problems because of the chemicals.
As of Feb. 16, the NDEE reports that the manure and other materials that were discharged from a digester tank at the ethanol plant because of the frozen pipe are being contained and have not reached the Platte River. The press release also mentions that AltEn formulated a dam south of the Highway 66 and Road 7 junction to stop further spread.
The NDEE ordered AltEn on Feb. 17 to continue placing barriers to prevent further migration. The order also requires that AltEn perform hourly inspections on the other digester on the property, put in back-up containment in case of a failure and stop any snow melt from combining with the material spilled.
NDEE is asking that AltEn create plans that explain “how the facility will recover, transport and dispose of the digester material and how the facility plans to prevent and contain a potential discharge from its second digester,” the release said.
These plans are expected to be provided by 12 p.m., Feb. 18.
The Saunders County Board of Supervisors approved a request on Feb. 16 that NDEE release all test results related to the AltEn facility to the general public.
The county board is also gearing up for a public meeting about AltEn at the Mead High School gymnasium with Mead officials. District 23 Sen. Bruce Bostelman who is working on legislation related to the treated seed corn, experts on the subject matter and NDEE officials have been invited to the meeting.
The NDEE press release also stated that the agency will continue to monitor the discharge released on Feb. 12 and provide new information as it becomes available.