Information and Updates for AltEn near Mead, Nebraska
Facility ID: 84069
Date last revised: August 4, 2022
This page is designed to keep the Mead community, Saunders County residents and interested citizens informed about significant activities related to the cleanup and mitigation actions at the AltEn ethanol facility.
Note: Older updates can be found below the Documents section.
NDEE recommends air monitoring, groundwater delineation at AltEn - August 4, 2022
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) issued a letter to the AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) on August 2, 2022. In it, the department recommends AFRG Implement air monitoring for hydrogen sulfide and methane to evaluate the performance of odor control measures and to ensure worker safety.
The department also communicated to AFRG that it strongly believes delineation of the pesticides, ammonia, and nitrates found in one onsite monitoring well needs to be completed in an expedited manner.
The department asked AFRG to respond to this letter by August 12, 2022.
The letter can be viewed in the public records portal in a document titled “Activity Update/ NDEQ Response,” filed on August 2, 2022.
NDEE sent this letter in response to a July 25, 2022, memo from AFRG that outlined the group’s response actions to data that showed the presence of pesticides, ammonia, and nitrates in one onsite monitoring well from a sampling event that was conducted on June 30, 2022. AFRG’s memo can be viewed in the public records portal in a document titled “Activity Update,” filed July 25.
NDEE receives groundwater sampling results — July 26, 2022
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has received partial results from a recent AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) groundwater sampling event that was conducted at the AltEn facility on June 30, 2022. AFRG sampled for the presence of pesticides, nitrate, and ammonia.
NDEE split sampled one of the wells for the presence of pesticides. The results from NDEE’s split sample can be viewed in the public records portal in a document titled “Sampling Results,” filed July 21, 2022. Data from the split sample shows the presence of thiamethoxam at levels above the Environmental Protection Agency drinking water benchmark. NDEE has not yet received pesticide results from the AFRG.
As part of this sampling event, AFRG also collected nitrate and ammonia samples from onsite wells. The results of that sampling can be viewed in the public records portal in a document title “Groundwater Sampling,” filed July 18, 2022. Data from the sample shows elevated levels of ammonia in one monitoring well.
AFRG submitted a memo to NDEE outlining its response actions related to the recent sample results. That memo can be viewed on the public records portal in a document titled “Activity Update,” filed July 25, 2022.
NDEE is reviewing AFRG’s memo and evaluating the proposed solution.
To verify AFRG’s nitrate and ammonia results, NDEE contracted for collection of an additional sample from one monitoring well on July 21, 2022. Results from the NDEE sample are expected next week.
NDEE receives AltEn wastewater works construction permit application — July 8, 2022
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has received, and is reviewing, the wastewater works construction permit application from AltEn. The application can be viewed in the public records portal in a document titled, “Construction,” filed June 24, 2022.
The permit is required for the treatment of on-site wastewater, and it assures that wastewater facilities are designed in accordance with Title 123 – Rules and Regulations For The Design, Operation And Maintenance of Wastewater Works.
With this application, AltEn is proposing the continuation of the treatment process described in the document titled “Pilot Treatment Plant Operation” that was uploaded to the public records portal on April 13, 2022. The permit application also accounts for NDEE’s response to the pilot program, which can be viewed in the public records portal in a document titled “Pilot Treatment Plant/NDEE Response,” filed May 17, 2022.
As an overview of the process, wastewater is first run through treatment equipment AltEn already had on site. The system starts by clarifying the wastewater to remove solid materials; this process is helped by adding chemicals that are commonly used in wastewater treatment. Then, the water is run through sand filters and carbon filters to treat pesticides.
Next, the water enters a portable treatment system brought to the site by Clean Harbors, the group’s contractor. This portable system also clarifies the water before running it through additional sand and carbon filters to further treat pesticides.
The permit application outlines the treatment process in more technical detail and provides a diagram.
NDEE reissued AltEn’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES), which allows for the continued land application of the treated wastewater. Additional information about the NPDES permit can be viewed on NDEE’s Information and Updates for AltEn page in a post dated June 30, 2022.
NDEE reissues AltEn NPDES permit — June 30, 2022
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has reissued AltEn’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The permit can be viewed in the public records portal in a document titled “NPDES Industrial,” filed June 29, 2022.
Two supplementary documents in the public records portal provide additional details about the permit. The permit’s fact sheet, titled “Basis of Permit” and a cover letter, titled “Issued Permit” were both uploaded to the public records portal on June 29, 2022.
This permit provides a method to remove treated wastewater from the AltEn site by allowing the continued land application of treated wastewater. The permit does not allow the discharge of non-process and process wastewater from AltEn to waters of the state.
The renewed permit features more stringent requirements for land application and requires monitoring groundwater for 13 pesticides in all monitoring wells; the previous permit monitored for five pesticides in monitoring wells. Outfall 001, a direct discharge of cooling tower wastewater to a tributary of Clear Creek, was removed from the reissued permit.
The permit also reiterates requirements NDEE previously established, such as requiring AltEn to provide quarterly groundwater monitoring reports and to obtain NDEE’s approval before discharging to the facility’s original wastewater lagoon system, among other requirements.
NDEE conducted a public hearing on the permit on April 27, 2022. A transcript of that hearing can be viewed through a series of documents on the public records portal titled “Public Hearing Part 1,” "Public Hearing Part 2," and "Public Hearing Part 3," filed June 14, 2022.
NDEE reviewed all public comments made in reference to the reissued permit. NDEE’s response to those comments can be viewed in the public records portal in a document titled “Public Comment Response Summary,” filed June 29, 2022.
NDEE responds to Senator Hunt email — June 23, 2022
On June 15, 2022, NDEE responded to an email from Nebraska Senator Megan Hunt. Her initial email and NDEE’s response are attached below.
NDEE responds to Senator Blood email — June 8, 2022
On June 3, 2022, NDEE responded to an email from Nebraska Senator Carol Blood. Her email and NDEE’s response are attached below.
Past press releases
EPA to support NDEE with air sampling at the AltEn facility from May 31 to June 2, 2022 — May 27, 2022
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with assistance from NDEE personnel, will conduct air sampling from May 31 to June 2 in an attempt to identify compounds that could be causing the odors at and near the AltEn, LLC ethanol facility in Mead, Nebraska, weather permitting.
In September 2021, following a request from NDEE, EPA and NDEE personnel conducted what is called targeted screening-level air monitoring on and near the facility using stationary and mobile (a specialized pickup truck with monitoring devices) air monitoring tools. EPA used targeted sampling methods to look for specific compounds including hydrogen sulfide, methane, benzene, toluene, and p-xylene. All sample results were found to be below levels of concern. The summary and full report are available in the public records portal under “DEQ Summary - MONITORING / EPA” and “DEQ Report - MONITORING / EPA,” filed on December 14, 2021.
For the May 31 to June 2 sampling effort, EPA will use an approach called non-targeted analysis (NTA). The tools and techniques used in this approach allow the agency to screen for compounds from among thousands of chemicals, rather than a small set of specific chemicals. In the laboratory analyses of the samples, EPA uses high-tech equipment and advanced computers to find chemicals that could have otherwise gone unnoticed using targeted methods.
EPA indicates there are limitations in how NTA sampling and laboratory analytical results can be used. NTA produces qualitative results that do not estimate the concentration of chemicals, which is necessary to assess potential human exposure levels and health risks.
EPA will provide the resulting data and the laboratory results to NDEE.
EPA will use high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) instruments to measure the mass and pattern of elements found in the samples that will be taken at and near the AltEn facility. When EPA scientists compare the results of these high-resolution samples with a list of known chemicals they can identify the types of chemicals that are present. EPA uses a list of more than 900,000 compounds to compare to the results from the sample evaluation.
NDEE receives industrial wastewater lagoon sampling results — May 23, 2022
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has received sampling results from the three industrial wastewater lagoons at the AltEn facility.
NDEE contracted EA Engineering, Science, and Technology, Inc., PBC (EA) to conduct the sampling for the purpose of pesticide analysis. EA sampled the southeast industrial wastewater lagoon, the northeast industrial wastewater lagoon and the northwest industrial wastewater lagoon on April 26, 2022, and April 27, 2022.
The sample results can be viewed in the public records portal by searching AltEn’s facility number 84069 and viewing the document titled “Sampling Results,” filed May 20, 2022.
NDEE, AFRG continue RAP communication – May 13, 2022
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has issued a response to an April 27, 2022, Voluntary Cleanup Program status report from the AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) where the AFRG said it will not submit the revised interim remedial action plan (RAP) requested by the department. Instead, AFRG said it will submit a final RAP in July 2022 for lagoon liquids, lagoon sludge and wet cake stored at the AltEn site.
The NDEE response can be viewed through the agency’s public records portal in a document titled “Remedial Action Plan,” filed on May 10, 2022.
In its response, NDEE encouraged AFRG to collaborate with the department on the results of the data collection and evaluation and proposed final remedial actions prior to submission of the RAP. NDEE also stated in its response that it expects the July 2022 RAP to address comments the department issued on the interim RAP.
NDEE’s comments on the interim RAP were posted to the public records portal on Feb. 28, 2022, in a document tiled “Interim Remedial Action Plan/NDEE Comments.”
Related documents that are also available in the public records portal include the AFRG’s draft IRAP, filed Nov. 1, 2021; NDEE’s initial comments on the draft IRAP filed on Dec. 22, 2021; the AFRG’s response to NDEE’s initial comments filed on Feb. 1, 2022; and the AFRG’s status report letter filed on April 27, 2022.
NDEE receives northwest lagoon groundwater monitoring results – April 22, 2022
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has received results from the recent groundwater sampling conducted on March 28. The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has received results from the recent groundwater sampling conducted on March 28 through April 4, 2022, around the northwest lagoon at the AltEn facility. This sampling gathered initial data to help evaluate why the water level appears to be dropping in the northwest lagoon and the need for further investigation.
Groundwater in the area generally flows from the north-northwest to the south-southeast. All of the recent groundwater sampling was conducted downgradient from the Village of Mead’s public water supply. One sample collected downgradient of the northwest lagoon showed mefenoxam and thiamethoxam were above the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water benchmarks. All other samples showed pesticides were not detected or were below EPA drinking water benchmarks. NDEE is consulting with the AltEn Facility Response Group about these results and next steps regarding follow up sampling and investigation. AFRG has indicated that it plans to restart wastewater treatment operations and will focus on the northwest lagoon to the extent feasible. AFRG has also offered to assist with additional monitoring activities.
For further reference, see the following data report and letter in the public records portal:
· “Groundwater Sampling/Revised,” filed April 25, 2022*
· “Activity Update,” filed April 21, 2022
In late March, NDEE used two groundwater monitoring wells and six temporary borings to collect groundwater samples upgradient and downgradient of the facility’s wetcake pile and its northwest lagoon, which has seen water levels drop about 5 feet since the fall. To read more about this monitoring effort, see the March 29, 2022, update below.
*This information was corrected April 26, 2022.
Archived Updates can be found HERE