Information and Updates for AltEn near Mead, Nebraska
Facility ID: 84069
Date last revised: May 27, 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.
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.
NDEE to hold information session ahead of public meeting – April 14, 2022
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy will hold a public information session about the proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) renewal permit for AltEn.
The information session will take place before the public hearing about the NPDES permit on April 27, 2022. The session will be held in the Mead High School Gym at 4:30 p.m. and will end at 5:30 p.m. The public hearing for the permit will begin at 6 p.m. in the school’s gym.
The session will provide information on the proposed NPDES renewal permit, land application and wastewater treatment.
For more information about the hearing and the public comment period for the NPDES permit, see the March 24 update below.
Past press releases
NDEE monitoring lagoon levels – March 29, 2022
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has been evaluating the levels of AltEn’s northwest lagoon and plans to collect groundwater samples on the AltEn site.
Water levels in the northwest lagoon have dropped approximately 5 feet since fall 2021. NDEE’s and the AFRG’s monitoring actions will help determine why the water levels are dropping in the northwest lagoon.
NDEE has hired a contractor to install two monitoring wells on site. NDEE’s contractor will use these new wells and six temporary borings to collect groundwater samples both upgradient and downgradient of the AltEn lagoon system. One well is also downgradient of the site’s wetcake pile.
A work plan that documents this sampling effort can be found on NDEE’s public records portal in a document titled “Groundwater Monitoring,” filed March 24, 2022. Work on the monitoring wells began Monday, March 28, 2022.
The AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) is also evaluating levels in the northwest lagoon. It plans to use water level pressure transducers in all three of AltEn’s industrial wastewater lagoons and four existing monitoring wells on site. The transducers will collect near-real-time groundwater level measurements. The AFRG proposes using these transducers for a period of 30 days or longer to provide continuous lagoon water and groundwater elevation data.
A technical memorandum that outlines the AFRG’s proposed action is also on the public records portal in a document titled “Request Information/Facility Response,” filed March 15, 2022.
NPDES permit on public notice, public hearing scheduled – March 24, 2022
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) proposes to reissue AltEn’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, with changes. The permit is on public notice and NDEE has scheduled a public hearing for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27, in the Mead High School gym.
NPDES permits are required for those discharging or proposing to discharge pollutants. The permit would allow the continuation of land application of treated wastewater by the AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) using AltEn’s permit.
As such, the permit reiterates land application requirements previously approved by NDEE – see updates “NDEE approves land application proposal,” from Jan 18, 2022, and “Sites approved for land application,” from March 15, 2022, for more information. The permit does not allow the AltEn to discharge process or non-process wastewater to waters of the state.
The permit also reiterates requirements NDEE has previously laid out, 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.
The permit can be reviewed on NDEE’s public records portal in a draft document titled, “Draft Permit Comments/NDEQ Response,” filed March 16, 2022.
Prior to final approval, the public can provide written comments on the NPDES permit by submitting them to:
NPDES and State Permits Section
Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy
PO Box 98922
Lincoln, NE 68509-8922
Written comments may also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.*
Comments will be accepted through April 27, 2022. Those interested can also provide spoken testimony during the public hearing.
*This information was updated on April 6, 2022.
Sites approved for land application – March 15, 2022
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has approved four sites for land application of treated wastewater from the AltEn facility. The four sites are all agricultural land in Saunders County within three miles of the facility.
The AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) is authorized to begin applying treated wastewater on these sites upon receipt of its application approval. NDEE has directed the AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) to apply the wastewater at rates that are protective of NDEE-approved pesticide thresholds, according to the land’s nutrient budget, and follows best management practices.
When approving sites, NDEE also considered the following requirements:
· Setbacks from waters of the state and other water bodies;
· Slope of the land;
· Setbacks from dwellings;
· Setbacks from potable water supplies, including community water supplies; and
· Depth to groundwater.
NDEE’s land application approval letter can be found in the public records portal in a document titled “Best Management Practices (BMP)/Plan Review,” filed March 14, 2022. Additionally, the AFRG’s best management practices plan, prepared by Nutrient Advisors, can be found in a document titled “Best Management Practices (BMP)/Revised,” filed March 11, 2022.
Information that is redacted in the best management practices plan is related to compensation between the AFRG and land owners. It has no impact on NDEE’s environmental review of land application. For further reference, see the following files in the public records portal:
· “Request confidentiality,” filed March 9, 2022; and
· “Request confidentiality/NDEQ response,” filed March 10, 2022.
NDEE responds to AFRG's IRAP comments – March 1, 2022
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has provided responses to the AltEn Facility Response Group’s (AFRG) comments regarding the interim remedial action plan (IRAP) for the AltEn site.
The agency’s comments can be viewed on its public records portal in a document titled “Interim Remedial Acton Plan/NDEE Comments,” filed Feb. 28, 2022.
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; and the AFRG’s response to NDEE’s initial comments filed on Feb. 1, 2022.
Once NDEE’s comments are addressed to its satisfaction, and the AFRG has submitted a revised IRAP, NDEE will provide public notice of its intent to approve the IRAP and hold a public hearing. The public can provide written comments on the IRAP, or those interested can testify at the public hearing, to be scheduled in the future. To read more about the public notice and comment procedures on remedial action plans, see the Oct. 28, 2021, update on the AltEn Archived Updates page.
Archived Updates can be found HERE