WASHINGTON -- AltEn, an ethanol plant in Mead, Neb., caused water and soil contamination in the surrounding farming community, according to an exposé from The Guardian newspaper. The facility reportedly accepted seeds treated with the class of bee-killing pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, from agricultural companies’ surpluses.
The levels of neonics measured on the AltEn property far surpass those considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. As a result, residential wells and an underground aquifer that supply water locally and across the midwest are at risk of contamination.
Bee die-offs and unusual behavior in wildlife have been observed following AltEn’s processing of neonic-coated seed. Neonics can remain in the environment for years, even after the source of contamination is removed.
Researchers and staff from the University of Nebraska, National Resources Defense Council, Xerces Society and Pollinate Minnesota were instrumental in raising awareness of this issue.
Environment America Conservation Associate Malia Libby issued the following statement:
“Residents of Mead, Neb., are experiencing a significant threat to their personal health and to the safety of pets, bees and wildlife in the surrounding area. And the sad reality is that this threat is both unnecessary and avoidable.
“Coating corn seeds with bee-killing neonics has become common practice for seed companies, often leaving farmers with little choice but to spread these chemicals in their fields, whether the pesticides are needed or not.
“And when the seeds go unused by farmers, we end up with disasters like this. AltEn should have known better.
“This small town in Nebraska is the latest example for why America needs to rethink how food is grown in this country. We need to assist farmers in transitioning to healthier, sustainable agriculture practices, which can dramatically reduce the need for pesticides and remove residual chemicals from the environment. The USDA has programs to help farmers embrace crop diversity, prairie strips, cover crops and more, but this horrible scenario in Mead reminds us that we must move faster. This can be done if Congress decides to deeply invest in sustainable farming.
“As for Mead, our sympathies go out to this community. Government agencies need to stop passing the buck and help these people out.”
Environment America is a national network of 29 state environmental groups. Our staff work together for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate. Our members across the United States put grassroots support behind our research and advocacy. Environment America is part of The Public Interest Network, which runs organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world, a set of core values, and a strategic approach to getting things done.