Mead Residents Say They Need Help Now

July 8, 2021, 5:18 p.m. ·

Resident Charles McEvoy speaks in front of the podium and shares his story
Resident Charles McEvoy says last year he's noticed there's no more mosquitoes, tree frogs, and pollinators in his place. (Photo by Melissa Rosales, Nebraska Public Media News)

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Despite the AltEn plant shut-down earlier this year, Mead residents continue to be impacted by contaminated seed corn used in the ethanol plant, potentially affecting their water supply. Water tests show there is no contamination of any public water supplies in the town or beyond -- though it is a concern for communities downstream from the plant, later experiencing impacts. Senator Carol Blood and Mead residents spoke-out Thursday about the need for help now.

Residents of Mead shared their stories of how they have been affected by the plant. Some fear growing gardens anymore, because of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's uncertain advice about its safety. Some don't want to fish in their pond, and some choose to drink bottled water instead, because they're worried the water could become contaminated, despite tests currently showing its clean.

Resident Charles McEvoy lives two miles away from the plant, west of Omaha, and describes the smell as a combination of dead rats and rotting grain.

"Even taking a shower in this water and doing our laundry, it could be exposing us to these chemicals all day," he said. We also have an 18-pound Rashon house dog who was having health problems. Her kidneys were full of kidney stones. She had surgery that removed over 60 stones from her, some over the size of a quarter."

Residents want to know if it’s safe for them to live there anymore and the effects on their health.

Dr. Eleanor Rogan with the University of Nebraska School of Public Health investigative team said they’ve been examining water samples and urge residents to fill out a health concerns survey. Next month, they’ll start examining residents’ urine and blood samples.

Cleanup efforts are underway by six seed companies, who were recently accepted into a state program, appointed by the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, to organize and pay for interim onsite mitigation. The corporate group is in the process of draining the overfilled wastewater tanks and removing old seedcorn that never got processed. They are also drafting a remedial action plan that will be available for public review, but that will take some time to get approved. Senator Carol Blood said other state government agencies need to step up, and give residents answers in the meantime.

"Mead needs help. Not two years from now, not five years from now, not 10 years from now, we need help now. If Nebraska cannot bring hope and help to its own taxpayers to its own residents, then we are not doing the job that we were elected to do," she said. "There is no excuse for what has happened and how long it happened."

Former Senator Al Davis encourages residents to send letters to the attorney general and call their local, state, and federal representatives with their concerns about cleanup.

Editor's Note: Corrections and updates were made to the original article to indicate contamination is an ongoing concern, but tests have not detected contamination of the water supply. Additional information was included to report cleanup efforts are underway. Nebraska Public Media News regrets the errors.