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Spill from troubled Mead ethanol plant traveled 4 miles in waterways, state says
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Spill from troubled Mead ethanol plant traveled 4 miles in waterways, state says

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Residents of Mead, which is about 12 miles west of Omaha’s city limits, say they fear that the plant's waste is causing health problems, contaminating the land and harming wildlife.

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy on Wednesday said it's continuing to monitor the release of waste material from AltEn Ethanol after a pipe burst on a 4 million gallon digester tank late last week.

In a news release, the department said the liquid discharge from the tank -- manure and thin stillage, a byproduct of the ethanol manufacturing process -- had moved more than 4 miles from the plant in waterways and culverts since the leak was discovered early on Friday.

The department added that as of Tuesday, the discharge appears to have stopped, and has not reached the Platte River to the southeast.

Meanwhile, the department has collected samples from the spill to determine if it contains pesticide residue. AltEn uses pesticide-treated seeds as a feedstock to produce ethanol, leaving a contaminated byproduct behind.

Results from the tests could be returned in two weeks.

According to the release, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency have also collected samples and offered assistance in cleanup.

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy also issued a letter of noncompliance to AltEn, ordering the company to build additional barriers to prevent further spread of the waste, to conduct hourly inspections on the second 4-million gallon digester, and to build a secondary containment in case of a potential failure.

AltEn is expected to provide written plans for how it will cleanup, transport and dispose of the material by noon on Thursday.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS



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