Human communication

Pesticide pollution in Mead, NE prompts researchers to monitor human health and the environment

The seed companies that sent the pesticide-treated seeds to AltEn – and are leading the clean-up of the facility – have offered no financial support, Khan said.

Communication with the EPA about the research effort has been very limited and the group does not have access to the facility, as efforts to contact the owners have been ignored, the researchers added.


In the meantime, the group has been collecting ground and surface water samples from the areas surrounding AltEn every month since April, trying to get a feel for the extent of the pollution runoff from the facility, Snow said. director of water sciences. Laboratory.

Past monitoring of pesticide levels in the eastern Nebraska watersheds has given his team a good baseline for what is normal, based on regular agricultural use of the treated seeds, he said. . The water leaving the AltEn facility has much higher concentrations, he said.

“Compared to what we find from traditional use of treated seed, these concentrations are 10 to 100 times higher than what we would expect from normal runoff from fields planted with treated seed,” he said. Researchers are also finding very high levels of degradation products – compounds that emerge when the original neonicotinoids break down – which are even more toxic, he added. “From the data we have generated so far, we are seeing quite high levels of some of these degradation products, some of which can be several hundred times more toxic than their parent compound,” he said. declared.


So far, public testing by the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) has found neonicotinoids and fungicides surfacing at levels above the EPA’s thresholds for safety in ponds and streams several kilometers from the plant. In September, state tests also found traces of pesticides in groundwater – in a private well six miles from the plant and in a public water supply at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center. (See more here:…)

The university research team also hopes to take samples for testing from the cattle feedlot next to the ethanol plant, which contains cattle still sent to market, Rogan said. “We hope to do it in November,” she said.

Meanwhile, entomologist Judy Wu-Smart from the University of Nebraska Extension and epidemiologist Elizabeth VanWormer will be examining wildlife and insects for exhibits and effects. Wu-Smart was among the very first to sound the alarm on contamination from the AltEn facility, after it began documenting unusual bee killings at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center starting in 2017.

Bees, Wu-Smart explained, can serve as “bioindicators of environmental quality,” as they travel for miles and pick up all kinds of particles on their fuzzy bodies, designed to trap and carry pollen to the ground. at the hive.


What will happen to the 84,000 tonnes of contaminated DDG and 176 million gallons of wastewater at the AltEn site is not yet known. A group of six seed companies – AgReliant Genetics, Bayer, Beck’s Hybrids, Corteva Agriscience, Syngenta, and WinField Solutions – have hired contractors such as Clean Harbors and NewFields to handle the cleanup, but the piles and water remain for the moment. No local landfill is willing to accept it, Snow noted.

It’s also unclear how the companies will pivot to dispose of millions of bushels of treated seed waste, which can no longer be sent to the ethanol plant. The Pesticide Stewardship Appliance (TPSA) has launched a task force to examine potential disposal options, including incineration and landfills, state by state. But the seed companies refused to answer DTN’s questions about where the seeds have been treated in the meantime.

The problem is reaching federal levels of government, Snow said, since the EPA exempts treated seeds from full registration and monitoring, through exempting treated articles from its applicable law, the Federal Insecticide Act, fungicides and rodenticides (FIFRA).

To learn more about the expansion of seed treatment use, with minimal regulation, and the attendant environmental and human health issues, check out this DTN survey here: ….

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee

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