UPDATE: NDEE monitoring 4.5 mile waste spill from Mead ethanol plant

The state says the plant has less than a day to construct plans to recover, transport and prevent any similar situations.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) -In the latest release from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE), it says the NDEE’s Director, Jim Macy, issued an Emergency Order and Complaint that required immediate action for the discharge cleanup at the AltEn ethanol facility in Mead. He issued this on February 20.

The Emergency Order and Complaint is an enforceable legal document stating that AltEn has not done enough in response to the discharge at their facility that has consequently caused pollution to Nebraska’s waters, which is a violation of state law.

The document orders AltEn to construct barriers that can prevent the discharge from migrating, to remove the discharge from draining ditches, and provide daily progress reports on the cleanup to NDEE.

The document also says that AltEn is not allowed to resume commercial and industrial operations until the cleanup is complete.

“Since the release was reported, NDEE has been actively engaged in emergency response efforts and activities focused on cleaning up the material. While AltEn is still in its initial response phase, the agency expects significant progress to be made over the next few days. NDEE is still investigating potential impacts of the discharge,” officials said.

February 17:

Officials with the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) released a statement Wednesday announcing they continue to monitor the situation at the AltEn ethanol plant in Mead, Nebraska.

The plant has been making headlines for months as it has been in violation of NDEE policies and practices without compliance, as well as for releasing an unpleasant stench to neighboring communities.

On February 4, the plant was ordered by NDEE to cease operations after the plant was found to be releasing wastewater into its lagoons, which the state said were holding more wastewater than allowed and were in disrepair.

On February 12, the state responded to the plant following reports of a wastewater spill that was contaminating nearby properties.

Thursday, NDEE said the state ‘continues to assess and monitor discharge at the ethanol facility.’

“NDEE staff were on site Friday and throughout the weekend to monitor and assess the discharge. The agency observed spill material in culverts up to four and a half miles southeast of the initial spill site. As of Feb. 16, the discharge is not migrating further and has not reached the Platte River. AltEn has constructed a dam south of the Highway 66 and Road 7 junction to prevent further migration,” the release states.

“NDEE collected samples to determine if the material contains pesticides and requested support from the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7. The EPA was on site to assess the spill, collect additional samples, give advice on cleanup and help with mitigation efforts. Sampling results could take up to two weeks to return.

Today, on Feb. 17, NDEE issued a letter of non-compliance to AltEn, directing the facility to immediately construct additional barriers to prevent further migration; conduct hourly inspections for leaks on its second digester and construct secondary containment in case of a potential failure; and prevent snow melt from commingling with the spill material.

NDEE directed AltEn to provide written plans by noon on Feb. 18. 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.

On Friday, Feb. 12, at 2:30 a.m., AltEn reported that below-zero temperatures froze pipes on a 4 million-gallon digester, which caused the release of thin stillage and manure over the course of the weekend.

NDEE will have emergency response staff on site daily to monitor the situation and cleanup efforts. The agency will provide updates as they become available.”

This is a developing story and this article will be updated as more information is made available.

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