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UNMC to study Mead ethanol plant contamination

UNMC to study Mead ethanol plant contamination

Mead area residents are getting some help in their struggle with potential health and environmental impact of contaminants from the local ethanol plant.

A pair of meetings this week and next will help chart a path forward. The first outlines a health study and the second will be a forum to discuss action residents might pursue independent of a lawsuit already filed by the state.

AltEn Ethanol used pesticide-laden seeds to make ethanol, a process not used at other ethanol plants. Residents fear that the plant and its waste has contaminated their water, air and land. The residue from the plant was stockpiled on-site and spread on fields. Additionally, wastewater from the plant has spilled onto nearby land and waterways.

Residents say they and their pets began developing health problems at the same time that the contaminated residue was spread on neighboring fields. One woman’s eyes swelled shut and began oozing puss, another family’s dogs became ill and stumbled around, and other residents have complained of headaches, bloody noses and trouble breathing.

Residents lobbied state regulators for action, and after their their problems became widely published in news accounts, the state filed suit against the plant.

“This means a lot,” Mead resident Jody Weible said of the meetings. “It means that for once we’ve not been abandoned because that’s how it felt for a couple of years now.”

On Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health will host a Zoom meeting to explain a health study it is undertaking. Panelists include Dr. Eleanor Rogan, chair of the college’s environmental, occupational and agricultural health department; Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the College of Public Health; and Terra Uhing, director of the Three Rivers Public Health Department.

On April 12, several organizations are collaborating to host a town hall in Mead. People can attend in person or virtually. That meeting will be at 7 p.m. at Mead Covenant Church, 1540 County Road 10. It’s at this meeting that Weible said the residents hope to begin learning of potential courses of action. The meeting is hosted by environmental, civic, faith and agricultural groups and the public can join via Zoom, Facebook Live or YouTube.

Photos: Mead ethanol plant

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Email: nancy.gaarder@owh.com

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