Residents & former employees sound off in town hall meeting over future of AltEn

Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 9:18 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Questions still linger about Mead, Nebraska and an ethanol plant, that people living in the community say has been poisoning the air.

Thursday evening a town hall meeting was held, in which lawmakers attended, where residents and former employees shared their concerns.

The AltEn plant was shutdown in March and in June, the ethanol plant’s permits were pulled for essentially everything but cleaning. Its operators are accused of creating contamination that could be hurting people and the environment by using seed corn coated in pesticides while processing ethanol.

More: AltEn ethanol plant loses conditional use permit after unanimous vote

The mood inside a Mead church Thursday afternoon was restless.

“My question is where has the state been for the last six years,” asked former AltEn employee Emily Robinson.

People who shared their concerns during the town hall said they can literally smell the problem.

“They have come out and they have done all these tests. They knew they were negligent,” added Robinson.

More: Mead residents call for more action over ethanol plant concern

The town hall meeting was aimed at keeping pressure on the ethanol plant to keep its word about the cleanup.

Some people said they’ve noticed changes to the environment but they’re more worried about the vast unknowns.

“This is a huge, widespread issue and the honest truth is that there is just so much unknown in relation to how far the contaminates have moved,” said UNL professor Dr. Judy Wu-Smart.

Following the town hall meeting, those in attendance were invited to Stan Keiser’s farm located between the ethanol plant and the Platte River.

Keiser said he started seeing problems roughly five years ago after the plant opened and fish in his pond died, “It stunk so bad that you couldn’t believe it.”

According to Keiser, the state tested the pond and the final test had an oxygen level one and came back as zero, “Which means nothing’s going to grow in here.”

Keiser said he worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installing a freshwater valve to try and control polluted flows from the plant, but it’s not a permanent solution.

“All this contamination is going on down the ditch. You dilute it down a little bit, but it’s still moving downstream,” added Keiser.

More: Bill aimed at troubled Nebraska ethanol plant advances

A number of Nebraska state senators were in attendance at the town hall meeting who said they plan to sponsor a bill next session to create a special committee to investigate AltEn.

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