Report: Spill from Mead ethanol plant likely 4M gallons

Posted February 19, 2021 3:34 p.m. EST

— A frozen underground pipe that burst last week likely spilled 4 million gallons of wastewater from a troubled ethanol plant in eastern Nebraska, according to a report by state environmental officials.

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy said officials with the AltEn ethanol plant near Mead has submitted a plan to clean up the spill, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

On Feb. 12, plant officials reported the accidental discharge that happened after a frozen pipe on the side of a large digester tank burst, releasing manure from the nearby feedlot and thin stillage from the ethanol plant.

Because the plant uses treated seed instead of harvested grain, it’s likely the thin stillage is contaminated with pesticides, which have been detected in the plant’s lagoons and other waste byproducts at high concentrations.

State regulators arrived on site of the spill about 10 hours after it was reported to find dark-colored wastewater still rushing from the ruptured pipe. The state's report indicates company officials believed 4 million gallons of the wastewater — some of it in the tanks for three years — was released.

AltEn employees built makeshift dams in several ditches on the facility’s property, as well as downstream, to try hold back the heavy flow of wastewater, the report said. The company also used pumps to try to recover the discharge and direct it into an emergency lagoon.

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