Nebraska state senator seeks to address complaints about ethanol plant near Mead

Source: By Paul Hammel, Omaha World Herald • Posted: Wednesday, January 20, 2021

LINCOLN — After fielding two years of complaints about an ethanol plant near Mead, State Sen. Bruce Bostelman said it was time to seek some resolution.

On Tuesday, Bostelman, who represents the Mead area, introduced a bill that would prohibit the use of “treated seed corn” in the production of ethanol.

His Legislative Bill 507 is aimed at the AltEn ethanol plant near Mead, the only ethanol plant in the state that uses seed corn coated in fungicides and pesticides to produce ethanol.

The plant has generated complaints about odor, concerns about pollution of groundwater, and worries that piles of fermented grains have caused illnesses among local pets and residents in Mead, a community of 608 people just west of Omaha.

AltEn has been ordered to dispose of its piles of fermented grain by March by the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy. Bostelman said his goal is to not close down the plant, but to get rid of the corn piles and end the use of treated corn.

“It would be great if they continue production, but they need to dispose of it (the corn byproduct) properly and in a timely manner,” he said. “It’s not being disposed of right.”

AltEn officials did not respond immediately to a phone call Tuesday afternoon, but have indicated to The World-Herald that they will cooperate with state officials.

“We will continue to work with the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy and other regulators to follow all applicable rules and regulations,” the company said in a statement.

The leftover distillers grain from ethanol production is a prized feed for cattle, but the fermented grains from the AltEn plant cannot be fed to livestock because of the toxic coatings on the corn used.

Bostelman said AltEn used to send its fermented grains to a landfill in Butler County, but that landfill stopped taking it. The state, he said, has declined to give the company permission to use the leftover grain as “soil augmentation.” Instead, the state has labeled the fermented grain as “waste” that must be sent to a licensed landfill.

A public hearing on LB 507 has yet to be scheduled.