Anger that regulators have polluted US towns for years with pesticides from factories


People in Mead, Nebraska have been worried for years about an ethanol plant that moved to a small rural community a little over a decade ago. They feared that the terrible odor and strange illness in the area might be related to the plant and the use of pesticide-coated seed corn in the biofuel production process.

After environmental regulators, under their supervision, had to admit that AltEn LLC’s ethanol plant was contaminating the area with levels of pesticides far above what was considered safe. Concerns turned into anger and anger.

Contamination has continued for many years and has been exacerbated by accidental spills and leaks of plant pesticide-containing waste, which is stored in poorly maintained lagoons and is a “wet cake”. It is piled up on a rotten lime green mash hill called. The company also distributed the waste to local farmers and spread it in the fields as a “soil conditioner.”

It was earlier this year that state officials ordered the factory to close after media reports exposed the problem and began efforts to wipe out what many in the community see as an epidemic of environmental disasters. ..

The state prosecutor’s office then sued the company on suspicion of multiple environmental breaches for “continuing threats to the environment,” and at the end of last month, Nebraska lawmakers said pesticide-treated seeds for ethanol production. Passed a bill to limit its use.

Mead residents say crackdowns on factories are welcome, but in many ways too late. The protracted effects of pollution do not end with new legislation. It also does not eliminate the many industrial agricultural practices that caused it. Instead, pollution continues to cause havoc, and there is concern that Mead’s trauma may be repeated in other small towns in the state where large-scale industrial farming practices continue.

Pollution continues to cause havoc, and there are concerns that Mead’s trauma may be repeated in other small towns in the state.

Former Nebraska Senator Al Davis told The Guardian, “I believe this is a tremendous environmental problem, and I just closed my eyes to the destruction. You can take responsibility for the feet of the governor and his staff. “

Fish kills have been reported miles downstream from the plant. University researchers report the destruction of dozens of bee colonies, and state officials receive reports of sick and dying geese and other birds, disoriented dogs and unexplained illnesses. I am.

Regulators have found unsafe levels of pesticides in farm ponds, and water used to irrigate drinking water and crops may also be contaminated, according to records from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE). Residual pesticides were detected in soil samples taken from local parks.

Meanwhile, the AltEn lagoon is flooded with millions of gallons of pesticide-laden wastewater, with 84,000 m-pounds of distilled grain by-products piled up around the factory. State tests on water and by-products have shown some surprisingly high levels of pesticides associated with a variety of human and wildlife health problems.

Nebraska Senator Carol Blood said the situation in and around Mead, a small village with a population of about 500, was “disastrous.” She is investigating AltEn’s practices and is planning a series of public meetings throughout the state to help assess the extent of environmental damage. “Given the scale of the problem, this is environmental destruction,” Brad said.

Neither NDEE nor the Governor’s Office answered questions about the situation raised by the Guardian.

AltEn’s lawyer Stephen Mossman also declined to comment, and AltEn’s general manager Scott Tingelhoff did not respond to the request to discuss the situation.

Seed company

The pesticides that are causing problems in and around Mead come from some of the world’s largest agricultural companies. They are a variety of chemicals as a tool to protect growing crops from pests and diseases. Manufactures and sells seeds coated with.

AltEn has advertised itself as a “green recycling” location where agricultural companies can dispose of unwanted supplies of seeds treated with these pesticides. According to AltEn’s marketing materials, Monsanto-owning Bayer AG, along with Syngenta, Corteva, and other large corporations, threw pesticide- and fungicide-covered seeds into AltEn.

The pesticides that are causing problems in and around Mead came from some of the world’s largest agricultural companies.

Under the AltEn program, companies can get rid of pesticide-coated corn, wheat and sorghum seeds for free with AltEn and pay to dispose of soybeans and other types of treated seeds. ..

Companies are currently actively involved in purification. An email between the state regulator and Bayer’s senior restoration manager, Marc Bowers, indicates that Bayer oversees various actions on the AltEn site. In particular, Bayer is leasing farmland in the area to install storage tanks for Alten waste, and is working on plans to disseminate factory wastewater to local fields after treating water to reduce pesticide levels. ..

In a statement, Bayer said it was working on “priorities in managing wastewater and wetcakes, as well as developing a restoration plan managed by Nebraska.”

Syngenta said it is cooperating with other seed companies in “voluntary response activities” and “is committed to proper management for the safe use of processed seeds.”

Corteva has confirmed that it is part of a team working to “address the environmental conditions of the AltEn site.”

No company has answered questions about the amount of pesticide-containing seeds that have been deposited with AltEn for years. Sources close to the company said they believe AltEn is responsible for processing seeds and are not responsible for pollution.

History of trouble

The ethanol plant was first introduced to Mead in 2007 as part of a “closed loop” system developed by a company called E3 Biofuels. Adjacent to the ethanol facility, a breeding facility for 30,000 cattle was set up. The operator said it would process animal manure into methane gas, power plants and use fertilizer as fertilizer for cornfields. Wet distilled grains produced as a by-product can be fed back to cattle, a common industry practice.

However, just a few months later, the factory was closed and E3 filed for bankruptcy in late 2007. AltEn then reopened the plant and in 2013 told regulators that the plant would use “mainly corn” as its main ingredient.

However, in 2015, Nebraska regulators discovered that AltEn uses pesticide-coated seeds. According to records, regulators knew by 2018 that by-products would contain “measurable” pesticide residues and that by 2019 pesticides would be present in “high concentrations”. It was.

There are many other meads

Jane Cleeve

According to a communication between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and NDEE, tests performed on AltEn’s wet cake and wastewater have shown “very high levels of pesticide residues” containing the known neurotoxin neonicotinoid. Shown. The fact that the material was applied to local fields means that pesticides can seep into groundwater and be taken up by plant tissues, contaminating nectar and pollen and threatening wildlife, EPA said. Warned.

NDEE has ordered AltEn to stop distributing waste for land use in 2019 because of pesticide levels. However, the agency did not stop the company from accepting more pesticide-coated seeds.

Over the years, AltEn has made multiple violations of environmental regulations, as shown in NDEE records. However, it was not until February of this year that NDEE ordered the factory to be closed until the pollution was cleared.

Just days after the shutdown, regulators said a pipe attached to a 4m gallon digester broke, flushing the toxins into the waterways and spreading them at least 4.5 miles away. May, Another leak Found in a pipe adjacent to the drainage lagoon.

Health monitoring

While regulators are sampling water and soil, many locals are concerned that the beef cattle plant adjacent to the AltEn plant is also contaminated. They wonder how much pesticide concentrate the animals there may have been exposed to through feed and water, and the long-term health hazards to those who ate the meat of those animals. I’m wondering if it could have any effect.

“People want answers and actions,” said Jane Kleeb, chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, seeking resources such as medical tests and water filtration for Mead and the people around him. ..

Researchers at the University of Nebraska and Creighton are now beginning a decade of research on the effects on human and environmental health.

Growing up on a farm in Hastings, Nebraska, many people in Hastings suspect that the cancers they develop are related to American chemicals, according to Brad, who says industrial farming practices have contributed to human and environmental health. It’s just the latest example of a dangerous danger. Soil and water. Due to pollution, the area has been designated as a federal superfund facility.

“Many of these things are happening in many of these little towns,” she said. “There are many other meads.”

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