Nebraska Plans to Renew Permit for AltEn to Release Treated Wastewater Onto Nearby Fields

March 21, 2022, 6:30 p.m. ·

Large piles of gray dirt sit next to two long white sheds, underneath a blue sky.
The AltEn facility outside of Mead, Nebraska. While it was in production, the ethanol plant created these piles of toxic waste as well as millions of gallons of wastewater. (Photo by Elizabeth Rembert, Nebraska Public Media News)

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AltEn, the ethanol plant that used pesticide-coated seed corn to make ethanol and created piles of toxic waste along the way, could get a renewed permit from Nebraska’s Department of Environment and Energy to release treated wastewater onto nearby land.

The AltEn Facility Response Group has been cleaning up the site and has treated the water through clarification, sand filtration and carbon filtration. The group is made up of the seed companies – Bayer, Sygenta, Corteva, AgReliant, Beck’s Superior Hybrids and WinField Solutions – that sent AltEn the corn to make ethanol.

Water would be released onto four sites of agricultural land in Saunders County within three miles of the plant.

Groundwater wells are at least 30 feet down at three of the sites. At one site, the groundwater water level is anticipated to be at least four feet down, according to documents from the department.

The 12 million gallons of treated water is stored in newly constructed, lined lagoons, separate from the 150 million gallons of contaminated water.

Landowners are paid for receiving the water, and two of the four sites have previously received wastewater from the plant.

Among other conditions from the modified permit, AltEn must also keep track of groundwater and soil quality and monitor for an updated slate of pesticides.

Nebraskans will have the chance to comment before the department officially renews the permit. The public hearing is on April 27th at 6 p.m. at the Mead High School gym.