MEAD, Neb. (KMTV) — For the last year, the community of Mead has been anxiously awaiting the results from a University of Nebraska Medical Center and UNL study looking into what damage the toxic waste from the nearby Alt En ethanol plant has done to the community.
Preliminary results were released on Thursday and showed elevated levels of the Neonicotinoid pesticides in air and water samples taken near the plant and those chemicals have even been found in dust samples from homes in the area.
“They are way below what EPA considers toxic levels but we don’t actually know what the effects are of prolonged low exposures,” said Dr. Eleanor Rogan with UNMC.
The samples taken from a home in Mead showed pesticide levels 10 to 100 times less than what the EPA considers toxic to humans but that is little comfort for the residents who had their homes tested.
“When I was afraid it was my home it was rather devastating and I’m hoping to hear from them very soon,” said Jodie Weible who lives just a mile northwest of the plant.
While the EPA says these levels aren’t toxic to humans it has been devastating for local wildlife.
“The highest concentrations have been in Johnson reservoir which is along the creek and that is now biologically dead,” said Rogan.
Researchers believe it is Alt En’s toxic waste that is responsible for the loss of life in the creek and reservoir and Weible believes if the toxic chemicals can do that kind of damage to wildlife then it can certainly do damage to the people of Mead.
“It's killing fish, it's killing birds and insects and it's only going to be a matter of time until it harms us,” said Weible.
It's not all bad news for the folks and wildlife of Mead.
UNL researchers have found that since the plant stopped operating in 2021 that several bee hives near the plant, that would typically die off throughout the year, have started surviving and Weible said she has seen some of those positive changes in her own backyard.
“The town of Mead did not have to spray for mosquitos for two years. Last year was the first year they had to spray, we didn’t have any barn swallows, anything, and it's because of them (Alt En). Now that they aren’t operating, the stuff is coming back,” said Weible.
The results of the UNL and UNMC study are preliminary and both will be continuing to look at the damage that neonicotinoids are having on the community of mead and the surrounding area and will run through at least 2022.