Archive of Information and Updates for AltEn near Mead, Nebraska


Facility ID: 84069


Archival updates



NDEE reviews and responds to AFRG Groundwater Delineation Work Plan — August 29, 2022

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has reviewed and responded to the AltEn Facility Response Group’s (AFRG) Groundwater Delineation Work Plan.

NDEE’s response to the plan can be viewed in the public records portal in a document titled “Activity Update/NDEQ Response,” filed August 24, 2022. In it, NDEE expresses no concern with the installation of the three proposed shallow groundwater monitoring wells.

The department’s response letter communicates a preference regarding the depth of the deep groundwater monitoring well. For that well, NDEE prefers a shallower depth relative to the 130 feet below ground surface proposed by AFRG. The department communicated to AFRG that the preferred shallower depth may more adequately delineate the vertical extent of pesticides and ammonia at the AltEn facility.

The department will reserve requesting a shallower depth for the deep well until after the three shallow wells are installed and sampled and analytical results from those wells are available.

AFRG’s Groundwater Delineation Work Plan was provided to NDEE on August 12, 2022. It can be viewed in the public records portal in a document titled “Activity Update/Facility Response.”


NDEE receives groundwater delineation plan from AFRG — August 17, 2022

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has received a letter from the AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) outlining the group’s commitment to perform groundwater delineation of pesticides and ammonia at the AltEn facility. The AFRG letter can be viewed in the public records portal in a document titled “Activity Update/Facility Response,” filed April 12, 2022.

In their delineation plan, AFRG proposes the lateral and vertical delineation of pesticides and ammonia through the installation of three new shallow wells and one new deep well. AFRG anticipates installation of the wells to begin in September.

In the same letter, AFRG also commits to performing additional drawdown of the northwest lagoon.

AFRG’s delineation commitment comes in response to an August 2, 2022, letter where NDEE recommended the process. NDEE’s recommendation letter can be viewed in the public records portal in a document titled “Activity Update/NDEQ Response.”

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.


Date
May 23, 2022Email from Senator Megan Hunt 05-23-22 - File Size 578 KB
June 15, 2022NDEE Response to Senator Hunt 06-15-22 - File Size 1.56 MB

Attachment: hh-benchmarks-factsheet-2021 - File Size 234 KB




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.


Date
May 31, 2022Email from Senator Carol Blood 05-31-22 - File Size 140 KB
June 03, 2022NDEE Response 06-03-22 - File Size 794 KB



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.

Background:
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 meetingApril 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.


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 ndee.npdes@nebraska.gov.*

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 commentsMarch 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.


NDEE, AltEn sign administrative consent orderFeb. 24, 2022

On Feb. 23, 2022, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy Director Jim Macy and AltEn signed an administrative consent order. This order can be found on the public records portal in a document titled “Consent Order,” filed Feb. 23, 2022.


Wetcake Covering Plan – Feb. 11, 2022

The AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) plans to begin covering the consolidated wetcake pile at AltEn starting Monday, Feb. 14. The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has provided technical comments on the AFRG’s plans.

The AFRG will use a product called Posi-Shell to cover the pile. Posi-Shell material consists of a clay based mineral product with polyester fibers in combination with Portland cement, according to the AFRG’s plan. The AFRG will also include an underdrain system to collect leachate from the pile and send it to the industrial lagoon system.

Covering the wetcake pile is intended to reduce odor and prevent stormwater from coming into contact with the wetcake. The Posi-Shell will act as a barrier between the stormwater and the wetcake, preventing the stormwater from touching or mixing with the wetcake material that contains pesticides. This will allow the non-contact stormwater to run off the covered pile, rather than be pumped into the lagoon system.

The material will be applied using truck-mounted application equipment Feb. 14-16. Beginning on Thursday, Feb. 17, the AFRG will use a helicopter to apply the Posi-Shell material where the truck-mounted applicator couldn’t reach. Local authorities will be notified before helicopter operations begin.

Documents outlining wetcake covering plans, as well as NDEE’s comments, can be found in the public records portal in the following files:
· “Wet Cake Consolidation,” filed Nov. 2, 2021
· “Wet Cake Consolidation/Facility Response,” filed Nov. 9, 2021
· “Wet Cake Cover,” filed Jan. 11, 2022
· “Wet Cake Cover/NDEQ Response,” filed Jan. 24, 2022
· “Final Site Stabilization Activity,” filed Feb. 1, 2022

A previous update on this topic can be found below in the Nov. 18, 2021, entry.


AFRG repairs emergency lagoons, constructs treated water lagoon - Feb. 10, 2022

The AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) has completed two winterization projects at the AltEn site: repairing the emergency lagoon and constructing the first of two treated water lagoons. These projects were intended to mitigate the risk of releases from the facility’s digesters and on-site temporary storage tanks.

Work to repair the emergency lagoon was completed in mid-December, and contents of AltEn’s digesters were transferred to the emergency lagoon shortly thereafter. Excess material from the digesters was transferred to the facility’s industrial lagoons.

Construction of the first new treated water lagoon was completed in late January. The AFRG began transferring treated water from on-site temporary storage tanks to the newly completed lagoon in early February. The on-site temporary storage tanks that held untreated water had previously been emptied into the facility’s existing industrial lagoon system prior to winter months.

Previous updates on this topic can be found below or on NDEE’s AltEn Archives page in entries from Dec. 14, 2021; Oct. 8, 2021; Sept. 8, 2021; and Aug. 31, 2021.


NDEE approves land application proposal - Jan. 18, 2022

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has approved a proposal to land apply treated wastewater from the AltEn facility to nearby agricultural land. This is a part of the AltEn Facility Response Group’s (AFRG) interim remediation efforts.

The land application proposal meets the facility’s current NPDES permit conditions and does not require a public hearing. NPDES stands for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which is the program that administers permits when facilities will discharge, or have the potential to discharge, into waters of the state.

The AFRG submitted its first land application proposal on July 16, 2021. NDEE provided comments, and the plan went through several reviews and changes until NDEE received the current plan to land apply treated wastewater on Jan. 7, 2022.

NDEE has reviewed the best management practices and planned application maximums for pesticides and has found the plan meets all requirements in the facility’s NPDES permit. NDEE has also directed the AFRG to land apply the treated wastewater in accordance with an approved best management practices (BMP) plan. A BMP plan is required by the facility’s permit and requires information be provided to NDEE for approval prior to land application. The plan must be prepared in consultation with a professional agronomist or certified crop specialist.

The AFRG must provide site information to the NDEE for review and approval before land application takes place. This is to ensure the treated wastewater meets proposed thresholds for the application of pesticides and meets the nutrient and soil condition requirements for each site.

NDEE also requires that the treated wastewater may not run off the site and may not negatively impact waters of the state. If this use of the treated wastewater is found to degrade site conditions, negatively impact water quality or violate permit requirements, site approval for land application will be withdrawn.

The AltEn facility contains approximately 150 million gallons of wastewater. The AFRG has treated approximately 12 million gallons of wastewater on the AltEn site, which is currently stored in temporary water tanks.

Sample results show the AFRG’s treatment process is effective in lowering pesticide levels. More information on the treatment process can be found in the Aug. 11 update on the AltEn Archives page.

Draft land application proposals, NDEE’s comments, the current proposal and NDEE’s approval letter can be found on NDEE’s public records portal in the following documents:
  • “Land Application Proposal,” filed July 16, 2021
  • “Land Application Comments,” filed July 30, 2021
  • “Land Application Comments,” filed Aug. 4, 2021
  • “Land Application Proposal,” filed Sept. 21, 2021
  • “Land Application,” filed Sept. 21, 2021
  • “Land Application,” filed Sept. 22, 2021
  • “Land Application/Laboratory Reports,” filed Sept. 27, 2021
  • “Land Application,” filed Sept. 28, 2021
  • “Land Application,” filed Sept. 29, 2021
  • “Land Application,” filed Nov. 14, 2021
  • “Land Application,” filed Nov. 18, 2021
  • “Land Application / Revised,” filed Dec. 14, 2021
  • “Land Application / Revised,” filed Jan. 7, 2022
  • “Land Application Approval,” filed Jan. 14, 2022


NDEE provides winterization update - Dec. 29, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has developed a video to provide information and footage on winterization activities the AltEn Facility Response Group's contractor is currently working on at the AltEn site. Watch the video here.


NDEE provides comments on remedial action plan - Dec. 28, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has provided comments on the AltEn Facility Response Group’s (AFRG) interim remedial action plan (RAP) for the AltEn site.

The agency’s comments can be viewed on its public records portal in a document titled “Interim Remedial Action Plan/NDEE Comments,” filed Dec. 22. The AFRG’s interim RAP can be found in a document titled “Interim Remedial Action,” filed Nov. 1, 2021.

The AFRG now has the opportunity to address NDEE’s comments and revise its RAP. To read a full description of public notice and comment procedures for the RAP, see the Oct. 28, 2021, update on NDEE’s “Information and Updates for AltEn near Mead, Nebraska” page.


NDEE approves liquid management plan - Dec. 14, 2021

The AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) has begun taking steps to winterize the AltEn site by moving liquid out of temporary storage tanks and digesters and into the facility’s lagoon system. The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) approved these plans Nov. 29.

Winterization work is underway. During the week of Nov. 28, the AFRG moved 88,000 gallons of thin stillage and 179,290 gallons of whole stillage to the facility’s industrial lagoons. There are also 8,000 gallons of beer and pop on site that were added to the industrial lagoons.

Currently, the AFRG is finishing repairs on the emergency lagoon. Once the lagoon’s liner is in place, the facility’s digesters, holding 7.9 million gallons of liquid, will be emptied into the lagoon systems, beginning with the emergency lagoon. If there is more material in the digesters than capacity of the emergency lagoon, then material will be placed in the industrial lagoons. Freeboard will be maintained throughout this process. Freeboard is the space between the water and the top of the lagoon. This work is expected to start the week of Dec. 12.

This winterization work is intended to mitigate the risk of releases from the facility’s digesters and temporary storage tanks.

Documents describing this work can be found in NDEE’s public records portal in a document titled “Liquid Transfer Plan/NDEQ Response,” filed Nov. 29, 2021.

The AFRG continues to work on constructing new treated water lagoons to hold treated water on site. This is another winterization effort that will eliminate the need for temporary storage tanks.


EPA air sample results available - Dec. 14, 2021

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed its report on air monitoring it conducted near AltEn and Mead during the week of Sept. 13. The EPA used its Geospatial Monitoring of Air Pollution (GMAP) air monitoring vehicle for the sampling event.

The EPA’s report can be found on NDEE’s public records portal in a report titled “Monitoring/EPA,” filed Dec. 6. In addition to this report, NDEE prepared a memo that compares sample results using the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s minimum risk levels as a standard. That memo is also available on the public records portal in a summary titled “Monitoring/EPA,” filed Dec. 6.

The EPA’s air monitoring efforts included sampling for hydrogen sulfide, methane, benzene, toluene, p-xylene and sulfur dioxide both on and off the AltEn Site.

Previous updates on the GMAP sampling can be found in the AltEn Archived Updates page in updates on Sept. 14, 2021, and Oct. 1, 2021. A link to the Archived Updates is at the bottom of this page.


AFRG depressurizes bubble in northeast lagoon - Nov. 23, 2021

The AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) submitted a plan to address gas bubbles in the liner in AltEn’s northeast lagoon. These bubbles are also referred to as “whales.” NDEE has reviewed the plan, provided comments, received updates to the plan and approved it.

The AFRG began this work on Nov. 18. Newfields, AFRG’s contractor, states in the plan that gases have expanded the whales in the facility’s lagoons, which threaten the integrity of the lagoon and its embankment.

To address the issues with the liner, the AFRG depressurized the most serious whale on the eastern end of the northeast lagoon. Future plans include preventing the liner from lifting where it is torn and depressurizing additional gas pockets that could threaten the lagoons’ integrity.

Plans and correspondence between NDEE and the AFRG’s contractor can be found in the agency’s public records portal in the following documents:
  • “Maintenance Activity,” filed Nov. 9
  • “Maintenance Activity/NDEQ Response,” filed Nov. 10
  • “Maintenance Activity/Facility Response,” filed Nov. 11
  • “Maintenance Activity/NDEQ Response,” filed Nov. 12
  • “Maintenance Activity,” filed Nov. 15
  • “Maintenance Activity,” filed Nov. 17




NDEE responds to Senator Blood letter - Nov. 18, 2021

On Nov. 18, NDEE responded to a letter from Nebraska Senator Carol Blood. See below for her letter and NDEE’s response.

Date

Nov. 18, 2021

NDEE Response 11-18-21.pdf - File Size 69 KB




NDEE receives plan to cover wetcake pile - Nov. 18, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has received a plan to cover the consolidated wetcake pile on the AltEn site from the AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG).

The plan can be found on the agency’s public records portal in documents titled “Wet Cake Consolidation,” filed Nov. 2. NDEE has reviewed the plan and provided comments to the AFRG. Those comments can be found in a document titled “Wetcake Consolidation/Facility Response,” filed Nov. 9.


AFRG submits Remedial Action Plan - Nov. 2, 2021

The AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) submitted its remedial action plan (RAP) for the voluntary cleanup program on Nov. 1.

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy is currently reviewing the document, which has been posted to the agency’s public records portal.

Although the document is available for the public to view, it is not open for public comment. To read an overview of the RAP review and comment process, see the Oct. 28 update below.



Public notice and comment procedures for the Remedial Action Plan - Oct. 28, 2021

The Remedial Action Plan (RAP) for the Nebraska Voluntary Cleanup Program is due from the AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) on November 1, 2021. After NDEE receives the proposed RAP, the agency will begin a review process that will include an opportunity for public comment, as described below.

Once NDEE receives the proposed RAP, the agency will begin an internal review process. Any comments that the Department generates during this internal review will be submitted back to the AFRG and the AFRG will have an opportunity to address those comments and resubmit the RAP. This initial review and response will happen before the proposed RAP is open for public comment. The proposed RAP is a public record and will be available to view during NDEE’s internal review and before public comment begins. Correspondence between NDEE and the AFRG regarding the proposed RAP also will be part of the public record and available to view.

If NDEE’s comments are addressed to its satisfaction, NDEE will then provide public notice of its intent to approve the RAP by publishing a legal notice in a local newspaper of general circulation near the affected area, as well as on the Agency website at the following link: http://dee.ne.gov/Press.nsf/PNall.xsp. The public comment period will begin once the legal notice is published. The public comment period will remain open for thirty (30) days. During the public comment period, NDEE will take written comments from the public on the proposed RAP. NDEE will also hold a public hearing at which the public can testify. The date for the public hearing will be contained in the published legal notice. All written comments or testimony received by NDEE during the public comment period will become part of the public record.

Comments and testimony from the public submitted outside of the 30-day public comment period and public hearing may not be considered.

Following the public comment period and public hearing, NDEE will prepare a responsiveness summary to the public comments and testimony received during the 30-day public comment period, and may request that the RAP be revised to address issues raised by the public.

After AFRG has a chance to respond to the responsiveness summary and/or revise the proposed RAP, NDEE will undertake a final review and, if satisfied, make a final decision on the proposed RAP. NDEE will mail a Final Remedial Action Decision Letter to AFRG, as well as to all parties who submitted written comments, provided testimony, or requested to be informed of the final decision.


NDEE receives drinking water sample results - Oct. 22, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has received sample results for six private drinking water wells in the Mead area that were sampled for pesticides associated with the AltEn facility.

One of these wells was re-sampled because it had detectable levels of pesticides during a sampling event this summer. NDEE sampled the five new wells for pesticides because of their proximity to the first well, in addition to providing sampling for coliform bacteria and nitrates.

Sample results confirmed the presence of pesticides in the well sampled this summer. All pesticides were below the Human Health Benchmarks for Drinking Water established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The results for the re-sampled are as follows:

Compound
Sample Result
micrograms/liter (ug/L)
Human Health Benchmark for Drinking Water (ug/L)
Clothianidin
1.7
630
Thiamethoxam
.97
77
Mefenoxam
0.068
474
Chlorantraniliprole
0.062
10,100


Of the five new wells that were sampled, one also had detectable levels of pesticides that were below the Human Health Benchmarks. The results are as follows:

Compound
Sample Result
micrograms/liter (ug/L)
Human Health Benchmark for Drinking Water (ug/L)
Clothianidin
0.082
630


Additionally, of the five new wells, two had detections for coliform and three contained nitrates above the health standard of 10 milligrams/liter. NDEE sampled for these contaminants as a courtesy to give well owners a more complete picture of their water quality. It is not unusual to find nitrates or coliform bacteria in private drinking water wells in Nebraska, and annual sampling for both is recommended.

A summary of drinking water sampling that took place this summer, as well as information on addressing pesticides, coliform and nitrates in drinking water, can be found in the Sept. 23 update below.

Sample results for the five additional private drinking water wells and the results from re-sampling the first well are available on NDEE’s public records portal.



Mold sampling results available - Oct. 15, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy sampled for mold in ambient air at the AltEn site and in the village of Mead. Background samples were also taken in control areas in Memphis, Seward, Ceresco and Waverly.

Sampling took place Sept 10, 2021, and results for all locations can be found on NDEE’s public records portal in a document titled “Request Information/NDEQ Response,” filed on Oct. 12, 2021.


Construction to begin on clean water lagoon - Oct. 8, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has issued a construction permit to AltEn that allows the AltEn Facility Response Group to build two treated water lagoons on the AltEn site. This permit was issued through Title 123 – Rules and Regulations for the Design, Operation and Maintenance of Wastewater Works.

The new lagoons, also referred to as ponds in application documents, will hold treated water from the AltEn facility and will replace the temporary storage tanks that have been on site. According to the AltEn Treated Water Ponds Engineering Design Report prepared by NewFields, the contractor hired by the AFRG, the new lagoons will hold approximately 52.2 million gallons of treated water. The lagoons will be located south of the northwest industrial lagoon.

A previous update on these treated water lagoons, and how the AFRG plans to move water in the temporary tanks, can be seen below in the Sept. 8 entry.

Documents related to the lagoon construction can be found on NDEE’s public records portal:
  • “Construction,” filed Sept. 27
  • “Application Review Comments,” filed Sept. 30
  • “Application Review Comments/Facility Response,” filed Sept. 30
  • “Application Review Comments/Facility Response” filed Oct. 1
  • “Application Review Comments/Facility Response” filed Oct. 4 (2 documents)
  • “Application Review Comments,” filed Oct. 4
  • “Construction,” filed Oct. 4

The AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) is made up of six seed companies: AgReliant Genetics, LLC; Bayer U.S., LLC; Beck’s Superior Hybrids, LLC; Corteva Agriscience, LLC; Syngenta Seeds, LLC; and WinField Solutions, LLC. The group has enrolled in NDEE’s Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) to address environmental contamination at the AltEn site, and is in the process of creating a Remedial Action Plan (RAP). The RAP will be made available for public review and comment before it is approved.

Consolidation of distillers gain piles completed - Oct. 7, 2021

The AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) has finished moving distillers grain from the facility’s eastern pile to its existing northwest pile. Now all distillers grains is in one location at the AltEn site.

Work to move the eastern distillers grain pile began in late August as a storm control measure. Residents in the area may still notice heavy machinery working to move solid material from the emergency lagoon to the pile and to shape the consolidated materials.

NDEE published an update about the distillers grain consolidation on Aug. 18, 2021, and it published an update about plans to repair the emergency lagoon on Aug. 31, 2021. Both updates can be seen below.


The AltEn Facility Response group has finished consolidating two piles of distillers grain. Distillers grain from the facility’s eastern pile (pictured above before, during, and after the consolidation) was moved to the facility’s northwest pile.


NDEE responds to Senator Blood letter - Oct. 1, 2021



On Oct. 1, NDEE responded to a letter from Nebraska Senator Carol Blood. See below for her letter and NDEE’s response.

Date

Oct. 1, 2021

NDEE Response 10-1-21 - File Size 707 KB




EPA provides NDEE with preliminary results of AltEn facility air monitoring - Oct. 1, 2021

In a recent webpage update posted on Sept. 14, 2021, NDEE reported that at the department’s request, the U.S. EPA would be conducting an air monitoring survey at the AltEn ethanol facility and surrounding area using its Geospatial Measurement of Air Pollution (GMAP) air monitoring vehicle.



The EPA has provided the following statement describing the preliminary results of the monitoring:

Information from the EPA – On September 14-16, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted mobile air quality monitoring using the EPA’s GMAP vehicle (see fact sheet for details) around AltEn ethanol plant and Mead Cattle in Mead, NE. The GMAP measures for five air pollutants: hydrogen sulfide (H2S), methane (CH4), benzene (C6H6), toluene (C7H8), and p-xylene (C8H10).

Preliminary results from the GMAP indicate reportable levels of H2S and CH4 and no reportable levels of C6H6, C7H8, or C8H10. Elevated concentrations of H2S were measured on the AltEn property and on a shared roadway between AltEn and Mead Cattle; elevated concentrations of H2S were also measured approximately ½ mile downwind of the facilities on road J on 9/14/2021. Reportable H2S was not measured downwind of the facilities on road K or in the community of Mead, NE on 9/15/2021 and 9/16/2021. The EPA also collected ambient air samples that will be used to determine whether other volatile pollutants are present at the facility and whether they are moving off-site. These samples are currently undergoing analysis and review.

The EPA’s preliminary findings from all air monitoring systems are that no air pollutants sampled present an immediate health threat. The EPA is reviewing all the data and will provide NDEE with a report summarizing this air monitoring activity in the coming weeks.

EPA Provides Support to NDEE: AltEn Facility, Mead, Nebraska - Fact Sheet, September 2021
NDEE Public Information: Information and Updates for AltEn near Mead, Nebraska

EPA Contact: Curtis Carey, Public Affairs, 913-551-7506, carey.curtis@epa.gov.


NDEE receives drinking water sample results - Sept. 23, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has received test results for samples taken from six public water supply wells and 36 private drinking water wells in the Mead area. The agency tested the water for pesticides associated with the AltEn facility, as well as for coliform bacteria and nitrates.



These samples are part of an ongoing, expanded sampling effort in the Mead area. Private drinking water wells were selected based on their proximity to the AltEn site, known land application and storage locations of the facility’s distillers grain and wastewater, and groundwater flow direction.

For pesticide sampling, results show pesticides were detected in one private drinking water well and one public water supply well. All pesticide levels were below the Human Health Benchmarks for Drinking Water established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. NDEE has contacted each of the affected well owners by phone.

The private well results were as follows:

Compound
Sample Result
micrograms/liter (ug/L)
Human Health Benchmark for Drinking Water (ug/L)
Mefenoxam
0.06
474
Thiamethoxam
0.85
77
Clothianidin
1.3
630

The public water supply well is located on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center. It was resampled to verify data, and results show:

Compound
Sample Result #1
micrograms/liter (ug/L)
Human Health Benchmark for Drinking Water (ug/L)
Clothianidin
0.071
630

Sample Result #2

Clothianidin
.39
630

While one private well’s and one public water supply well’s sample results show pesticides below the Human Health Benchmark for Drinking Water, well owners can take extra measures to address the pesticides if they wish. Private well owners who wish to address these compounds can use NSF-certified water treatment equipment that’s rated for pesticides. Public Water Supplies are not required to address contaminants below the health benchmark, but those that want to address pesticides should work with a professional engineer to conduct an overall water quality evaluation to determine the best course of treatment.



During this sampling effort, NDEE also offered sampling for bacteria and nitrates. These contaminants are not associated with AltEn, but NDEE offered the sampling as a courtesy to give well owners a more complete picture of their water quality.

Of the 36 private drinking water wells, nine wells had detections for coliform and 14 contained nitrates above the health standard of 10 milligrams/liter. It is not unusual to find nitrates or coliform bacteria in private drinking water wells in Nebraska and annual sampling for both coliform bacteria and nitrates is recommended. These well owners were contacted by phone once NDEE received sample results.

Coliform
Coliform are a group of bacteria found in the digestive tracts of both humans and animals. There are several types of coliform bacteria, some are beneficial and help with digestion, others, like E. coli may cause gastrointestinal distress and illness.

If a drinking water sample shows the presence of coliform bacteria of any kind, it suggests there may be structural issues with the well or a source of contamination nearby. In the short term, water can be boiled for one minute to kill the bacteria before the water is used for drinking and food preparation. A certified well contractor should inspect the well as soon as possible to address the issue.

Nitrates
Nitrates are naturally occurring in the environment but also found in commercial fertilizers and livestock waste. Their presence in drinking water is the result of runoff and subsequent contamination of the drinking water source. Formula-fed infants, and those with anemia, cardiovascular disease, sepsis, or other metabolic disorders or diseases, have difficulty breaking down nitrates, if present at high levels. Nitrates that aren’t processed effectively by the body can interfere with oxygen absorption, decrease blood pressure, increase heart rate, and result in serious illness, especially for formula fed infants.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water standard for nitrates in public water supplies is 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L). That same level is used to provide guidance to homeowners, however, private wells are not regulated by the EPA or NDEE.

If drinking water test results show nitrate levels above 10 mg/L, NDEE recommends locating an alternate drinking water source or installing in-home treatment, such as distillation, reverse osmosis or ion exchange. Do not boil the water. This will cause some of the water to evaporate and concentrate the nitrates that remain in the water.

NDEE’s previous sampling efforts
Prior to this sampling event, NDEE sampled six public water supplies and six private drinking water wells – all 12 of these wells were resampled during this current sampling effort.

Summaries on previous drinking well samples are available on the agency’s “Information and Updates for AltEn near Mead, Nebraska” webpage on the following dates:
  • March 4, 2021
  • March 18, 2021
  • April 1, 2021
  • April 16, 2021
  • May 26, 2021
  • Aug. 19, 2021


EPA to conduct air monitoring survey Sept. 14, 2021

To bolster state sampling efforts on and around the AltEn facility, the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has requested additional monitoring from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 and Region 5 through its Geospatial Measurement of Air Pollution (GMAP) air monitoring vehicle. NDEE contacted the EPA to request the vehicle earlier this year.

During the week of September 13, the EPA will conduct a screening-level air monitoring survey near the AltEn ethanol facility with its GMAP air monitoring vehicle, weather permitting. Mead area residents can expect to see monitoring activity during this time, with sampling locations determined by wind direction.

Data collected from EPA’s GMAP vehicle during this assessment will be used for air pollution screening purposes. It will provide more information on source attribution by measuring both mobile and stationary emissions. The vehicle can measure chemicals including hydrogen sulfide, methane, benzene, toluene, p-xylene and sulfur dioxide, along with wind speed and direction.

EPA will provide the screening data and mapping results to NDEE. It generally takes at least three months to process, verify and send the data. NDEE, the lead regulatory agency over the AltEn facility, has already conducted other monitoring including water, air, waste material and soil sampling.

For the most recent NDEE sampling results, see the Aug. 4, Aug. 18 and Aug. 19 updates on the agency’s
AltEn page. For background on NDEE air sampling efforts, see the July 28 update.

An
EPA Region 7 fact sheet provides more information about GMAP monitoring at the AltEn facility.



NDEE receives proposal for new lagoons – Sept. 8, 2021

The AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) has submitted a proposal to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) to construct two new lagoon cells on the AltEn site. The lagoons would be directly south of the northwest lagoon, where the central temporary storage tanks are currently locate.



The proposal includes plans to transfer untreated wastewater from some tanks to existing lagoons and other tanks before beginning lagoon construction. Untreated water currently in tanks 4, 5 and 6 would be returned to the existing lagoon system. The tanks would then be relined and used for the storage of treated water.

After tanks 4, 5, and 6 would be converted to treated water tanks, treated water currently in tanks 7, 8, 9 and 10 would be transferred to these tanks as well as to tanks 1, 2 and 3. Tanks 7, 8, 9 and 10 would be removed from the site before the AFRG starts construction on the two new lagoon cells.


This image provided by the AFRG identifies the locations of the lagoons and tanks on the AltEn site.


NDEE has approved the water transfer proposal. Prior to construction of the new lagoons, the AFRG must submit a Nebraska Administrative Code
Title 123 - Rules and Regulations for the Design, Operation and Maintenance of Wastewater Works construction permit application. The application must include plans and specifications and be submitted by a Nebraska Professional Engineer.



Berm seepage reported on AltEn siteSept. 3, 2021
The AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) has reported saturation of a berm surrounding the east distillers grain pile after heavy rains on the morning of Aug. 31. The saturation caused seepage on the AltEn property, and AFRG contractor Clean Harbors has taken action to help prevent runoff from moving downstream.

The seep was noticed the morning of Aug. 31, and the AFRG reported it to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) on the same day. Clean Harbors’ incident report states plugs were inflated in the culvert at the intersection of county roads 9 and J to block the runoff, and a vacuum truck was deployed to relieve water volume pressure on the berm.

NDEE inspectors visited the site on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 to observe the incident.

Documents related to this incident can be found on NDEE’s public records portal:
· Compliance,” filed Aug. 31, 2021
· Incident Report,” filed Sept. 1, 2021


Deadline extended for remedial action plan - Aug. 31, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has granted the AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) an extension on its deadline to submit its Remedial Action Plan (RAP).



The RAP was originally due at the end of September and is now due no later than Nov. 1, 2021. The AFRG requested the extension for the RAP, stating it had prioritized interim emergency response measures and activities to stabilize the site for winter. NDEE granted the extension based on those actions, which, according to the AFRG, include:
  • Improving wastewater treatment efficiency
  • Consolidating piles of distillers grain
  • Maintaining freeboard in the industrial lagoons
  • Repairing and maintaining the emergency pond
  • Working toward land application of treated wastewater
  • Developing engineering plans for a treated water pond
  • Developing plans to drain digester tanks
  • Developing plans for closures and draining of temporary water tanks

AFRG’s extension request and NDEE’s response can be found in the public records portal in a document titled “Extension Request Approval,” filed Aug. 27, 2021.



NDEE receives plan to repair emergency lagoon - Aug. 31, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has reviewed the AltEn Facility Response Group’s (AFRG) plan to repair the emergency lagoon on the AltEn site.



The AFRG plans to begin this work the week of Aug. 29 and expects it will take five to six weeks to complete. The work includes removing liquid and solid wastes from the emergency lagoon and replacing the existing liner.

The liquid waste will be pumped into the facility’s southeast lagoon, and the solid material will be placed on the eastern side of the emergency lagoon while it dries. Any liquid that is removed from the solid material will be removed and treated. Once the solid material is dry enough to transport, it will be added to the northwest pile of distillers grain, also referred to as wetcake.

The AFRG’s plans can be viewed in full in the public records portal in a document titled “Request Information/NDEQ Response,” filed Aug. 27, 2021.

NDEE receives drinking water sample resultsAug. 19, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy received additional public and private drinking well sample results collected on Aug. 2 and Aug. 3. These results include two Village of Mead, two Army National Guard and two University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) public drinking water supply wells, plus six private drinking water wells.

All results showed non-detectable levels for all compounds tested, with the exception of one UNL well. This well had 0.071
μg/L of the pesticide clothianidin, which is below the EPA drinking water benchmark of 630 μg/L. NDEE plans to resample the well.

These results can be viewed on the agency’s
public records portal by searching AltEn’s facility number 84069 and viewing the documents titled “Sampling Results,” filed Aug. 19.



NDEE receives plans to consolidate distillers grain piles - Aug. 18, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has received a plan from the AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) to consolidate all the distillers grain material to one location on the AltEn site. The work to move the material is planned to begin on Monday, Aug. 23*, and is expected to take 28 days to complete.

The distillers grain at the east end of the AltEn property will be moved to the northwest pile, where all the other material is located. The AFRG plans to conduct work to minimize odor, and when possible, plans to avoid scheduling work during important community events. However, nearby residents may still notice an odor during this time.

Clean Harbors, the AFRG’s contractor, will use excavators, off-road haul trucks, bulldozers and front-end loaders to move the piles. The AFRG also has plans to minimize dust by using water or dust suppressant on the unpaved roads on site – it will not use public roads or rights-of-way for this work.

After the distillers grain has been removed from the east location, the AFRG plans to sample the area for compounds associated with the AltEn site.

Documents that detail the AFRG’s proposal and NDEE’s comments can be found on the public records portal in the following documents:
  • “Wet Cake Pile Consolidation Plan,” filed Aug. 16, 2021
  • “Wet Cake Consolidation/NDEQ Response,” filed Aug. 16, 2021

The AFRG is made up of six seed companies: AgReliant Genetics, LLC; Bayer U.S., LLC; Beck’s Superior Hybrids, LLC; Corteva Agriscience, LLC; Syngenta Seeds, LLC; and WinField Solutions, LLC. The group has enrolled in the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy’s (NDEE) Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) to address environmental contamination at the AltEn site, and is in the process of creating a Remedial Action Plan (RAP). The RAP will be made available for public review and comment before it is approved.

*This information was updated on Thursday, Aug. 19, at 3:19 p.m.


NDEE responds to Senator Blood letter - Aug. 18, 2021

On Aug. 17, NDEE responded to a letter from Nebraska Senator Carol Blood. See below for her letter and NDEE’s response.

Date
Aug. 18, 2021Letter from Nebraska Senator Carol Blood 7-22 - File Size 256 KB

NDEE Response 8-17 - File Size 1,422 KB

NDEE Attached Documents - File Size 1,111 KB



First week of VOC sample results are in - Aug. 18, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has received its first batch of air sample results for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) on the AltEn site. These samples were collected on July 23.

The agency has reviewed the sample data to determine if any VOC concentrations were above limits set by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) or the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGLs). The EPA has a technical definition for VOCs here.

Sixteen compounds were detected in the VOC sampling, and most had concentrations that were less than or equal to 1% of the limits listed by NIOSH and EPA. Monitor 6 detected benzene levels at 21.88% of the lowest exposure limit. Benzene is commonly emitted from gas stations, vehicle exhaust, fuel evaporation, and burning coal and oil, among other sources. Monitor 6 is placed between Road 10 and the pile of distillers grain.

Sample results, as well as a memo describing the results in more technical detail, can be found on NDEE’s public records portal in documents titled “Laboratory Analysis,” filed Aug. 10, 2021. Future sample results will also be available on the public records portal.

In total, six summa cannisters were placed around the facility’s lagoons and its northwest pile of distillers grains. Given their location, the cannisters measure on-site air rather than ambient air, which is defined in the Clean Air Act as outside air that the general public has access to.


NDEE receives land application proposal for treated water - Aug. 11, 2021

The AltEn Facility Response Group (AFRG) has been treating wastewater as part of its interim remediation efforts at the AltEn site and has filed a proposal to land apply the treated water to agricultural land.

The AFRG is made up of six seed companies: AgReliant Genetics, LLC; Bayer U.S., LLC; Beck’s Superior Hybrids, LLC; Corteva Agriscience, LLC; Syngenta Seeds, LLC; and WinField Solutions, LLC. The group has enrolled in the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy’s (NDEE) Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) to address environmental contamination at the AltEn site, and is in the process of creating a Remedial Action Plan (RAP). The RAP will be made available for public review comment before it is approved.

NDEE has reviewed the AFRG’s land application proposal and has given technical review comments to the AFRG. The proposal and NDEE’s comments are available on the public records portal in documents titled “Land Application Proposal” filed on July 16 and “Land Application Comments” filed on August 4.

The AFRG has treated approximately 12 million gallons of wastewater and is storing the treated water in temporary storage tanks on site. The wastewater has been pulled from the onsite industrial lagoons to be treated and to lower the amount of wastewater in the lagoons to a safe level.

AFRG is requesting to land apply so additional measures, such as heat and water circulation, will not be needed for the tanks over the winter.

The AFRG provided NDEE with sample results for wastewater before and after treatment, referred to as influent and effluent, respectively. The sample results show the treatment process is effective in lowering pesticide levels, though nutrient levels (ammonia, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other traditional parameters) are still elevated. These results can be viewed on the public records portal in the following documents:
  • “Laboratory Wastewater Analysis,” filed July 20
  • “Laboratory Wastewater Analysis,” filed June 29

NDEE has observed the treatment process. First, the wastewater is run through treatment equipment AltEn already had on site. The system starts by clarifying the wastewater to remove solid materials and 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 remove pesticides and other contaminants.

Next, the water is run through 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 sand filters, a clay filter and carbon filters.

Two written memos that describe the treatment process in more technical detail can be viewed on the agency’s public records portal. These memos were filed on April 14 and May 5, and both are titled “Site Visit.”


NDEE samples Memphis Lake, pesticides not detected - Aug. 4, 2021

As part of its continuing sampling efforts related to the AltEn facility, the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy collected surface water samples from Memphis Lake and Silver Creek near Memphis.

Results for both locations showed non-detectable levels for all analytes sampled for, including compounds associated with the AltEn site. Samples were collected on July 14 from the boat ramp dock at Memphis Lake and above a diversion dam on Silver Creek, north of the lake. These sample results can be seen on NDEE’s public records portal in documents titled “Sample Results” filed on July 29, 2021.

NDEE sampled these locations because representatives from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission said it uses the diversion dam to direct water from Silver Creek into a wetland complex that feeds into Memphis Lake. Game and Parks was concerned about diverting water from the creek because of its proximity to AltEn.


NDEE provides repository of public records to library - July 29, 2021

In an effort to make information more readily available, the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has created a repository of paper records at the Mead Library.

The repository is a hard copy of key documents maintained in a binder that Mead residents can review at their convenience to find information related to the AltEn facility. The documents provided to the library are not all the public documents about AltEn, but those interested can view a comprehensive list of public documents on NDEE’s public records portal by searching the Facility ID 84069.

The documents contained in the repository are the same documents that were included in NDEE’s response to state Sen. Carol Blood. The letter and its attachment can be found in digital form in the July 9 update below.

As progress is made at the AltEn facility and more information becomes available, NDEE will provide additional key documents for the repository. The Mead Library is located in the village at 316 South Vine Street. The binder is available for review at the library, but cannot be checked out or removed from the building.


NDEE begins air sampling - July 28, 2021

NDEE is expanding its sampling efforts and will conduct additional air, water and soil testing related to the AltEn site. This sampling is being conducted out of an abundance of caution and it will provide useful data as the AltEn Facility Response Group develops its Remedial Action Plan.

NDEE will focus its sampling on protecting human health, while the AltEn Facility Response Group will focus on sampling at the AltEn property.

To start this sampling effort, NDEE deployed six passive air samplers on July 23. The passive samplers will collect daily air samples focusing on hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and ammonia.




Pictured top is a passive air monitor that was installed at the AltEn Facility on July 23. In total, six air samplers were installed to provide daily information on hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and ammonia, in addition to other air sampling. Pictured on the bottom is NDEE's contractor preparing a Summa Cannister, which will gather data on volatile organic compounds.

The agency also used Summa Cannisters on site on July 23 to gather data on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air. While the agency does not regulate odors, the passive air sampling and the Summa Cannisters will provide data and information about the compounds that may be contributing to the odor from the facility. Sample results from these efforts will be made public once they are available.

In addition to these daily samples, NDEE has also sampled the air around AltEn’s lagoons and distillers grain piles using a MultiRAE hand sampler. The handheld sampler is typically used in emergency response functions and in enclosed spaces, and can measure methane, oxygen levels and carbon monoxide. However, the agency used it to get quick readings for H2S and VOCs at AltEn. Results from the MultiRAE showed no readings over zero for all analytes sampled. The investigation report detailing these efforts can be found on the agency’s public records portal in the “Site Visit” document from July 23.


NDEE responds to Senator Blood letter - July 9, 2021

On July 9, NDEE responded to a letter from Nebraska Senator Carol Blood. See below for her letter and NDEE’s response.

Date
July 9, 2021Letter from Nebraska Senator Carol Blood - File Size 307 KB

NDEE Response - File Size 1820 KB

NDEE Response - Attached Documents.zip - File Size1.2 GB



NDEE approves VCP application - July 8, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy approved the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) application from the AltEn Facility Response Group.

The application was approved June 30 and marks the group’s official enrollment in the VCP. The AltEn Facility Response Group is made up of six seed companies: AgReliant Genetics, LLC: Bayer U.S., LLC; Beck’s Superior Hybrids, LLC; Corteva Agriscience, LLC; Syngenta Seeds, LLC; and WinField Solutions, LLC.

In addition to the application approval, NDEE and the AltEn Facility Response Group have signed a memorandum of agreement that outlines program expectations. The group’s application, NDEE’s approval, and the memorandum of agreement can be found on the agency’s public records portal.

Storage tanks
Clean Harbors, an environmental and industrial services provider, has prepared an area on the AltEn site to build up to seven additional temporary water storage tanks. With three tanks previously constructed on site, the new tanks will bring the total number of temporary tanks to 10.


Clean Harbors prepared this site for seven additional temporary water storage tanks on the AltEn property. Three tanks had previously been constructed elsewhere on site, and four of the seven new tanks have already been erected. Once the three remaining tanks are constructed, there will be a total of 10 tanks on site. The new tank area has secondary containment that includes berms and a synthetic liner topped with an additional layer of clay that has been brought on to the property from off-site. The synthetic liner and clay layer extend to the sides of the berms that provide secondary containment for the tanks. This photo was taken June 28, 2021.

The tanks will be used to store treated wastewater, or to store wastewater before it can be treated. Of the seven new tanks, six have a 3.5-million-gallon capacity and one has 3 million, but they will not be completely filled because they have a working capacity of around 80-85%. Secondary containment is in place and includes berms and a synthetic liner topped with clay that was brought in from off-site.

Groundwater monitoring results
AltEn is required to have a groundwater monitoring plan and provide quarterly updates. Its June report shows one of its four monitoring wells contained thiamethoxam at 19.2 parts per billion (ppb) and clothianidin at 34 ppb. The three remaining well samples showed non-detectable levels for all compounds tested.

The complete groundwater monitoring report can be found in the “Groundwater Monitoring” document filed June 21 on NDEE’s public records portal.


Seed companies apply to VCP for AltEn site - June 10, 2021
A coalition of six seed companies has applied to the Nebraska Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) to address environmental contamination at the AltEn facility located near Mead, Nebraska. The VCP is a results-based approach to environmental cleanup that allows NDEE to review and oversee remediation efforts.

The seed companies — collectively known as the AltEn Facility Response Group — include AgReliant Genetics, LLC; Bayer U.S., LLC; Beck’s Superior Hybrids, Inc.; Corteva Agriscience, LLC; Syngenta Seeds, LLC; and WinField Solutions, LLC.

Under the VCP application, the AltEn Facility Response Group is committing to continuing interim remedial measures at the site. The group will also develop a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) subject to public notice and comment, as well as NDEE review and approval. The RAP could then be the basis for long-term remedial measures at the site.

“The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy is pleased with the group’s willingness to participate in the VCP. This program creates opportunities for third parties to efficiently clean up sites,” said NDEE Director Jim Macy. “By stepping up to address AltEn’s contamination issues, the group will help provide a significant measure of protection to the citizens of Mead and surrounding areas.”

“This is a positive step towards implementing the long-term response actions needed at this facility,” said Ed Chu, Acting Regional Administrator for Environmental Protection Agency Region 7. “We look forward to continuing to provide support and assistance to NDEE to ensure the contamination is properly and fully addressed.”

After reviewing the VCP application, NDEE will approve or deny the application. If approved, the AltEn Facility Response Group will begin developing a proposed RAP that conforms to state and federal environmental requirements.

Any updates will be published on the NDEE website at dee.ne.gov/Press.nsf/pages/AltEn.

Remedial work to date
Seed companies have voluntarily undertaken interim remedial work at the AltEn site since Feb. 12, primarily focusing on managing wastewater lagoon levels and liners. They have also assisted with emergency response by helping manage the environmental impacts of wet cake and waste materials onsite through containment and stormwater management.

About the VCP
Since the program’s inception in 1995 under the Remedial Action Plan Monitoring Act, many contaminated sites have been successfully remediated and returned to productive use, including Asarco in downtown Omaha and the Haymarket in downtown Lincoln.

Through the VCP, applicants develop a RAP for NDEE review and approval with public participation that assures compliance with state and federal environmental requirements. Because applicants are responsible for paying for site investigations and cleanup actions, this program has no cost to taxpayers.

A RAP includes site investigation information outlining the extent of the contamination, a workplan that describes cleanup actions and project monitoring reports containing data required by NDEE. Once a RAP is approved, applicants typically have six months to begin work on a site and 24 months to complete it, although those terms may change.


NDEE receives additional private well results - May 26, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy received additional private drinking well sample results and continues to oversee actions taking place at the AltEn facility.

Private well sampling
NDEE sampled an additional private drinking well on May 5 and received results on May 21. These results showed non-detectable levels for all compounds tested, and can be viewed on the agency’s public records portal in documents titled “Sampling Results” filed May 24.

This private well was sampled because it is located downgradient from where a pile of AltEn’s distillers grain was being stored. That pile has since been returned to the AltEn site.

The agency previously sampled five other private drinking wells, and those results also showed non-detectable levels for all compounds tested. Summaries of these samples can be found in previous updates from April 1 and April 16.

Stormwater controls and other actions
Clean Harbors has built new and reinforced existing berms surrounding the distillers grain piles on the AltEn site. This is a best management practice to prevent stormwater runoff from the piles from entering nearby waterways.

Stormwater that collects behind these berms is being pumped into AltEn’s emergency lagoon, or to the industrial lagoon with NDEE approval, for storage before it can be treated.

Clean Harbors also is consolidating piles of the distillers grain to make more room for water treatment equipment. NDEE continues to have staff monitor ongoing action at the AltEn facility.


NDEE addressing environmental issues - April 29, 2021
The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has been working, with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to address the environmental issues at the AltEn, LLC ethanol plant in Mead, Nebraska. NDEE and EPA are exploring all available options for addressing the environmental issues at the site.

In conjunction with the agencies’ efforts, seed industry representatives have voluntarily begun actions to assist with emergency measures, including reducing the level of wastewater in the lagoons to approved levels and implementing stormwater control measures to prevent discharges from the distiller’s grain piles. These measures are integral to addressing the most immediate issues at the AltEn facility and are being conducted with full review and oversight by NDEE and EPA.

“We appreciate the industry representatives’ proactive commitment to address this situation,” said NDEE Director Jim Macy. “These actions are a crucial next step at the facility as more permanent solutions are investigated.”

In addition to the Nebraska Attorney General’s efforts to ensure AltEn’s compliance, NDEE and EPA are discussing a longer-term commitment by the seed industry to fully address the environmental issues at the site.



Facility recovers distillers grain, moves biochar - April 27, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy continues to observe cleanup efforts at the AltEn facility, including the facility’s actions regarding its distillers grain and biochar material.



Recovered distillers grain
NDEE has confirmed that AltEn recovered three piles of distillers grain that were not on the facility’s property. This distillers grain had been delivered for land application before the Nebraska Department of Agriculture issued a stop sale/stop use order, though it was never applied. The material is now being stored with the rest of the distillers grain on AltEn’s property.

Biochar material
NDEE has also confirmed that AltEn moved all its supersacks of biochar to its enclosed hoop building. This is a stormwater control measure that will prevent the biochar from coming into contact with stormwater.

AltEn previously used a biochar unit to process some of the distillers grain stored on site, as announced in NDEE’s March 5 update. Because sample results of the biochar material showed it still contained pesticides, NDEE directed AltEn to store the biochar in a way that prevents land contamination and contact with stormwater (see NDEE’s March 31 update for more information).


NDEE receives sampling results from mid-March – April 16, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has received results from samples it collected in mid-March. These results include the remaining three private drinking well samples, surface water samples, and samples from the distillers grain piles located on AltEn’s property.



Private well results
The three remaining private well results showed non-detectable levels for all compounds tested in the drinking water. NDEE has provided test results to the well owners, and those documents are available on the public records portal in documents titled “Sampling Results” filed April 13.

On March 4, NDEE announced it was collecting samples from private drinking water wells. Five wells were selected to sample based on their proximity to the AltEn facility and known land application of both distillers grain and the facility’s lagoon wastewater. Sample results for the first two wells were announced April 1, and showed non-detectable levels for all compounds tested.

Surface water and distillers grain samples
NDEE collected surface water samples on March 14 during a large rainfall event. Samples were collected at two locations in the unnamed tributary of Clear Creek: “Site 5,” located just off AltEn’s property, and “Site 3” near Highway 66 and Road 7. Pesticides were present in the sample results, which can be found on the public records portal in documents titled “Sampling Results” filed April 12.

NDEE collected samples from the distillers grain on March 11, and results show pesticides are present in the material. Sample results can be found on the public records portal in a document titled “Sampling Results” filed April 13.

NDEE provides updates on AltEn activities – April 6, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy continues to have staff monitor ongoing action at the AltEn facility. The facility’s recent actions include implementing wastewater treatment and placing the biochar material in an enclosed storage area.



AltEn is operating a wastewater treatment system to address the pesticides present in its wastewater lagoons. Once the wastewater is treated, it will be tested and held in temporary storage tanks while NDEE awaits sample results. Those results will help determine if further treatment is necessary or if the treated water can be used or discharged. It is necessary to treat and remove the wastewater to create adequate freeboard in the lagoon system and so the lagoons can be repaired.

AltEn is also in the process of moving supersacks of biochar to its enclosed hoop building. This is a stormwater control that will prevent the biochar from coming into contact with stormwater.

NDEE team members visit AltEn to regularly monitor conditions at the facility. This includes monitoring stormwater controls AltEn has put in place to prevent runoff from piles of distillers grains. Observations from these site visits can be found on NDEE’s public records portal in documents described as “compliance.”


NDEE receives some background sampling results – April 1, 2021 (updated April 13)

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has received results from two private drinking water well samples and a soil sample from the Mead park. NDEE collected these samples to gain background data on the area surrounding the AltEn facility.



NDEE reported March 4 that it tested four private wells. A fifth private well was tested on March 9. NDEE’s contractor collected soil samples from a park in Mead on Feb. 26.

More information on this sampling effort can be found in the department’s March 4 update on ongoing actions regarding AltEn. NDEE will update its website once results from the remaining three private wells are finalized.

Private Well Results
The two private well results showed non-detectable levels for all compounds tested in the drinking water. NDEE has provided the results to the well owners, and they are available on the department’s public records portal in sample result documents filed March 25.

Soil Sample Results
NDEE sampled soil from the park in Mead to evaluate air deposition, which happens when wind carries contaminants in the air and re-deposits them on the ground.

The composite sample consisted of 21 parts, collected in locations throughout the park. The parts, referred to as aliquots, were combined into a single sample and analyzed for pesticides found at the AltEn facility.

Two of the compounds that were detected in the sample were clothianidin and glyphosate. Two additional compounds, fluoxastrobin and thiamethoxam, were detected, but with concentrations below what the lab could quantify with confidence. The lab has since amended its data, and those changes are reflected in the table below.

Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid that has been found at the AltEn facility. Its main agricultural use is seed treatments, though it is also found in some commercial insecticides and has non-ag uses such as treating turf and ornamental plants.

Glyphosate is a widely used herbicide; Roundup is one example of an herbicide that uses this chemical. While glyphosate is not used as a seed treatment, it has been found at AltEn.

The table below shows the levels of the compounds that were detected in the park and compares them to the soil screening level developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The screening level is designed to be protective of human health.

Compound
Level Detected
parts per billion (ppb)
Soil Screening Level
parts per billion (ppb)
Clothianidin
38
620,000
Glyphosate
20.5
630,000
Fluoxastrobin*
1.23 - J
95,000
Thiamethoxam*
3.39 - J
76,000
*This updated was revised on April 13 to account for amended laboratory data. The J-codes for fluoxastrobin and thiamethoxam signify the compound is present, but that the level detected is an estimate.

The full sample results can be found on NDEE’s public records portal in the document titled “Sampling Results” filed March 26. Amended sample results are also in the records portal in a "Sample Results" document filed April 9.


NDEE receives biochar sampling results – March 31, 2021

NDEE received biochar test results based on a sample collected on March 3, 2021.

The preliminary test results indicate that the biochar process does not fully remove the pesticides from the distillers grain when converting it to biochar. Therefore, NDEE continues to consider the biochar a solid waste as defined by Nebraska Administrative Code
Title 132: Integrated Solid Waste Management Regulations.

In a letter sent to AltEn on March 26, 2021, NDEE said the facility may dispose of the biochar at a permitted landfill or re-process the biochar through the biochar unit to attempt to remove the pesticides.

If AltEn chooses to re-process the biochar or process additional distillers grain through the biochar unit, NDEE must first approve a plan that thoroughly describes how the processing will occur as well as a sampling plan.

Any onsite biochar must be stored in a way that prevents land contamination and contact with stormwater. Acceptable storage methods include relocating the biochar to the grain storage building.

The agency has never issued a permit for land application of the biochar.

Preliminary test results are available in the
public records portal.



NDEE receives AltEn's sample results from digester discharge - March 30, 2021

The AltEn ethanol facility has provided sample results related to the Feb. 12 digester spill to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy. Two sets of samples were collected by AltEn and its contractor. NDEE observed these sample collections.

AltEn and its consultant collected samples on Feb. 28 and March 3, 2021, from several locations along the unnamed tributary of Clear Creek where the Feb. 12, 2021, digester spill had been contained. They also collected samples from recovered water before and after it was filtered.

The test results showed pesticides were present in the samples collected, but higher levels were found closer to the digesters where the spill originated. Additionally, the samples taken before filtration showed higher levels of pesticides than the samples taken after filtration, which showed decreased levels of pesticides. The filtered water is being contained in a temporary storage tank at the facility for further analysis and evaluation.

Full test results can be found on NDEE’s public records portal in sampling result documents filed March 22, 2021.

NDEE is working closely with the EPA to evaluate these pesticides.


NDEE receives public water supply sample results - March 18, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy received sample results for the public water supply samples it collected in the Mead area earlier this month.

Results showed non-detectable (ND) levels of neonicotinoids, strobins, and azoles for all sampled wells. The full sample results can be viewed in NDEE's public records portal.

Samples were collected at six public water supply wells: two at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Eastern Nebraska Research Center (UNL ENREC), two at the Nebraska National Guard’s training site, and two wells connected to Mead’s public water system. These sites were selected because of their proximity to the AltEn ethanol facility and known land application of the facility’s distillers grain and wastewater.

Additional drinking water and soil sample results are pending.

Activities over the March 13-14 weekend
In preparation for a rain event March 14-15, NDEE directed AltEn to build and reinforce berms on its property and implement other best management practices to contain potential stormwater runoff from its stockpiled distillers grain. NDEE staff were on site over the weekend to observe AltEn’s efforts.

Additionally, AltEn had recovered as much spilled material as possible from the unnamed tributary of Clear Creek following the Feb. 12 digester discharge, and collected samples during the cleanup. Results from those samples can be found on NDEE’s public records portal.

Because of the sample results, the stormwater controls implemented by the facility, and the amount of rain that was expected over the weekend, AltEn removed temporary containment structures to prevent flooding. These structures were put in place to prevent the digester spill from migrating farther downstream, and were located in culverts near Highway 66 and Road 7 and in a culvert upstream near the facility.

NDEE notified the City of Lincoln, UNL ENREC, and a downstream pond owner that the structures were being removed.


Biochar unit operating at AltEn facility - March 5, 2021

The AltEn facility is using a biochar unit to begin processing some of the distillers grain that has been stored on site, and nearby residents may notice steam coming from the unit.

Distillers grain is a byproduct of ethanol production and is often used as animal feed. However, because the material on AltEn’s property contains neonicotinoids – a class of pesticides – it is not suitable for animal feed. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture has prohibited its use as a soil amendment.

A biochar unit typically chars biomass, with the resulting material usually intended to be used as a soil amendment.

NDEE Director Jim Macy issued an administrative order on Nov. 20, 2018, requiring AltEn and Greencycle Solutions to conduct emissions testing on its biochar unit. Greencycle Solutions owns the biochar unit and AltEn operates it. Testing completed in July 2020 showed emissions below the criteria for regulated air pollutants and contained small amounts of pesticides.

The department has collected a sample of the resulting biochar product for testing to determine if it contains pesticides, or if the charring process destroys the chemicals. Results from that test will be made available on NDEE’s public records portal and can be found by searching AltEn’s facility ID: 84069.

(This update was corrected on March 10, 2021)


NDEE conducts background sampling in Mead - March 4, 2021

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has conducted additional sampling in the Mead area to gain additional background on the AltEn ethanol facility, and to remain vigilant regarding potential environmental impacts the facility has had on the area.

This sampling effort includes six public water supply wells, four private wells and one soil sample.

Drinking water well sampling
The six public water supply wells include two wells at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center; two wells at the Nebraska National Guard’s training site; and two wells connected to Mead’s public water system. As of March 2, the agency has collected two of the four private well samples. These sample sites were selected because of their proximity to the facility and known land application of both distillers grain and the facility’s lagoon wastewater.

Soil Sample
NDEE also collected a soil sample from Mead’s public park to evaluate air deposition, which happens when wind carries contaminants in the air that later re-deposit on the ground. While the agency does not expect to find contamination at this site, it conducted the sampling in an abundance of caution.

Test results from this sampling effort will be made available on the agency’s public records portal. Those interested can view them by searching the Facility ID 84069. Links to this announcement and previous press releases, as well as administrative orders, can be seen below.