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Second pilot project to transport toxic waste to Bennington landfill begins at AltEn Ethanol plant

Posted at 12:45 PM, Jun 20, 2024

MEAD, Neb (KMTV) — The journey to a clean community has been a long one for the village of Mead.

It started in 2020 when state regulators demanded that the AltEn Ethanol plant clean up its piles of toxic waste, known as wet cake, that were a byproduct of the ethanol produced at the plant.

That wet cake, contaminated with pesticides known as Neonicitinoids, was believed to be responsible for skin irritations and respiratory issues residents were experiencing as well as the death of several bee colonies at UNLs nearby research center.

The first pilot to move the material that began in 2023 was a success but the engineers behind the plan think they can do better.

“Going into this year what we needed to do is evaluate another method that is commonly used at other sites. It’s an in pile mixing method where we actually use an excavator to mix the re-agent, the bentonite, in the material,” said Bill Butler, one of the Newfields engineers leading the clean up.

Bentonite, a kind of clay, mixes with the wet cake material to solidify it and make it safe to move in trucks to the Pheasant Point Landfill, near Bennington.

Those trucks will also be lined with a polyethylene plastic liner, run through a mechanical wash before they leave the site, and contractors will also have a street sweeper following trucks to make sure the waste isn’t spreading.

And Newfields is expecting a lot of trucks to be coming and going from the plant in the next few weeks.

“We are gonna have a total of about 485 truckloads that will go off. On some days we will have as many as 40 to 60 trucks going off the site in a given day,” said Butler.

Unfortunately this new method isn’t without its downsides.

Butler says people in and around Mead can expect some unpleasant odors when the material is being mixed.

Some folks aren’t happy about the odor but Butler says constant communication has helped ease some of the discomfort that comes with the clean up.

“We meet with them each month and give them an update on everything we have completed, what our plans are moving forward. They seem to be understanding of what we are going through,” said Butler.