OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — At a virtual town hall Tuesday evening, a team led by the University of Nebraska Medical Center summarized a plan for a wide-ranging study to analyze health and environmental impacts of Mead's AltEn ethanol plant.
The plant was shutdown by state regulators in February, and nearby residents alleged it's the cause of health problems for them and their pets. The plant's use of treated seed corn to produce ethanol made it unique.
A 13-member team made up of experts from UNMC, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Creighton University will study toxin levels in land, water and the air, impact on animals, including pets, meat production, and wildlife. The team also includes a Saunders County doctor and the director of the Three Rivers Public Health Department.
The researchers are also hoping for many human participants, which team lead Dr. Eleanor Rogan of UNMC's College of Public Health called "one of the most important parts."
They plan a medical registry so that long-term impacts on human health can be tracked over time.
The team estimates the research will cost $10 million over 10 years. The Claire M. Hubbard foundation has made a contribution to get the project off the ground, Rogan said.
"We are hoping that the Nebraska Legislature will provide us some extra funding," Rogan said. The group also plans to apply for a National Institutes of Health Grant and Nebraska Environmental Trust.
The study aims to accomplish several goals, including provide an estimate on how far toxins have been able to travel via air and water.
They said participation from people in and around Mead will be helpful.
"Some of you have been living with this; you have been living in this," said Dr. Brandon Grimm of UNMC's Department of Public Health. "You know a lot more than we do because you're in the community every single day."
AltEn has reached out to help, according to UNMC Department of Public Health Dean Dr. Ali Khan.
More information can be found on the team's website here, and by watching the town hall in full below.