Nebraska Ethanol Plant Runs Into More Environmental Problems

On Wednesday, the NDEE issued a letter of non-compliance to AltEn, directing the company to construct additional barriers to prevent further migration of the spill, to conduct hourly inspections for leaks on the plant’s second digester in case it springs a leak, and to build secondary containment.

The company was directed to provide written plans by noon on Thursday.

“These plans are expected to describe 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,” NDEE said.

The ethanol plant was once considered to be a glimpse of the promise of a renewable energy future and an economic development tool for the village of Mead.

Wet distillers grains containing pesticides and fungicides applied to farmland has created a terrible, nose-burning odor in and around the village of 569 residents.

AltEn shut down its plant after the state ordered closure following numerous environmental violations.

The NDEE issued an emergency order to cease operations at the plant on Feb. 4. AltEn completed shutdown on Feb. 8.

Violations outlined in the order include excess water levels in and damage to the plant’s three lagoons, high levels of numerous pesticides and fungicide chemicals found in the lagoon water and wet distillers, as well as a failure on the part of AltEn to stop land-applying wet distillers after being ordered by the state.

State records show numerous complaints were filed by area residents, who say the odor coming from land-applied wet cake is causing health issues. The state has given AltEn 30 days to submit a plan to dispose of lagoon wastewater and to clean up standing wet distillers on the property.

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Todd Neeley can be reached at

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