Wastewater Spill from Nebraska Ethanol Plant Due to Pipe Burst

Feb. 25, 2021

A frozen pipe burst at a Nebraska ethanol plant caused a wastewater spill

A frozen pipe burst at a Nebraska ethanol plant, likely spilling approximately 4 million gallons of wastewater in eastern Nebraska, according to a report by the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.

According to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, officials with the AltEn ethanol plant near Mead have submitted a plan to clean up the spill, reported KCAU 9.

The plant had been ordered to close several weeks ago. 

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy Director Jim Macy issued an Emergency Order and Complaint requiring immediate action on the discharge that took place Feb. 12 at the AltEn ethanol facility in Mead, Nebraska, reported NTV.

Macy issued the order and complaint on Feb. 20, following a Feb. 17 letter of non-compliance in which the agency instructed AltEn to take mitigation and cleanup efforts on the discharge. The document orders the facility to build and fortify barriers to prevent migration of the discharge, remove discharge from drainage ditches and provide daily cleanup progress reports to NDEE, according to NTV.

The complaint and order is an enforceable legal document and states that AltEn has not adequately responded to the discharge and has caused pollution to the waters of the state, violating state law.

Plant officials reported the accidental discharge on Feb. 12 that happened after a frozen pipe on the side of a large digester tank burst. This released manure from the nearby feedlot and thin stillage from the ethanol plant, reported KCAU 9.

The plant uses treated seed instead of harvested grain and it is likely the thin stillage is contaminated with pesticides, which were detected in the plant’s lagoons and other waste byproducts at high concentrations.

The AltEn facility was ordered to close because its wastewater lagoons were in danger of overflowing and contaminating nearby property and waterways, according to Aberdeen News.

The state also ordered AltEn to dispose of its leftover grain by Mar. 1, 2021. The facility can do this either by dumping it in a licensed landfill or incineration, reported Aberdeen News. For now, the grain has been left in piles around the plant and residents in the area have complained about the odor.

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Cristina Tuser