Report: Burst pipe at Mead ethanol plant leads to discharge of waste

Report: Burst pipe at Mead ethanol plant leads to discharge of waste

Thursday, February 18, 2021
Chris Dunker

A frozen pipe burst at the AltEn ethanol plant near Mead early Friday morning, causing waste to spill out of the property and onto a neighboring University of Nebraska-Lincoln research center site.

Staff at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center, which is located a mile south of AltEn, reported rushing water quickly filling a waterway that runs through the property.

The ethanol plant said a pipe burst at about 2:30 a.m., leading to a discharge of a byproduct known as thin stillage, as well as cattle manure, according to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.

Department staff were on site Friday and are continuing to monitor the situation, NDEE said in a statement.

AltEn, which is owned by a Kansas company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company was ordered Feb. 4 to immediately shut down after an inspection of wastewater lagoons on the site found them to be overfilled and in disrepair.

AltEn completed its shutdown Monday.

The facility, which uses seeds treated with pesticides rather than harvested grain to produce ethanol, has been subject of numerous complaints over the last few years.

While it sells the ethanol at market, the byproduct and wastewater have tested for high concentrations of pesticides and fungicides, raising concerns that the chemicals have leached into the groundwater, and could have long-lasting effects on the area.

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