Group Protests AltEn Plans to Cover Waste Piles with Cement-Like Mixture

Feb. 14, 2022, 6 p.m. ·

At the right of the picture, a woman stands behind a podium. Behind her, a group of people hold protest signs with words like "Stop" and "No More."
Senator Carol Blood speaks with a woman at a rally in the Nebraska State Capitol. The group protested the plan to cover the piles of toxic waste and called for more action regarding the AltEn ethanol plant. (Photo by Elizabeth Rembert, Nebraska Public Media News)

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The AltEn Response Group planned to start covering up more than 80,000 tons of toxic waste outside of Mead, Nebraska on Monday. The waste, or wetcake, is the byproduct from when AltEn turned pesticide-treated seed corn into ethanol.

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy had previously said a cover up wasn’t a long-term solution, but said it could be a solution for odor and contamination control. The department said it had no issue with the response group using the cement-like seal for now.

In a statement, NDEE said it had told the group that it must "treat or dispose of the wetcake in its final Remedial Action Plan. The agency also has requested the AFRG implement groundwater monitoring near the wetcake pile."

Protestors circled a podium in the Capitol’s rotunda Monday morning, holding signs that showed skepticism for the plan to cover up the waste. One read “Mead is Nebraska’s Flint” in black letters.

Janece Mollhoff, a Saunders County resident who lives downstream of the plant, said the coverup plan “will fail all of us" and cited concerns the cover would not prevent toxins from leaching into groundwater through the soil the piles sit on.

Joslyn Stamp, a 14-year-old Plattsmouth resident, said, “The future generations of Nebraska can't safely live where the waters aren’t clean, the air isn't safe to breathe and the soil can't grow healthy food.”

Senator Carol Blood said AltEn has “not once shown us that they can adequately manage toxins.”

Protestors also came to support bills from Blood, who is also running to be Nebraska’s governor.

  • LB159 proposes forming an investigative committee in the Legislature for oversight of AltEn
  • LB694 would extend the statute of limitations for compensation for injuries or death caused by exposure to chemicals
  • LB695 proposes prohibiting property owners who owe taxes from certain grants and permits
  • LB1048 would allocate funds to a team of university scientists to research the impacts of contamination on the environment and human health

“There’s so many hard questions, questions which only a full investigation of this disaster can remedy,” said Al Davis, a former state senator who currently lobbies for the Sierra Club. “We ask the executive committee of the Legislature to open the windows, let the stinking gasses dissipate and shine some light on how we got here.”