Mead is located on State Highway 92, and about one-half mile east of U.S. Highway 77, approximately 30 miles west of Omaha. The interchange of I-80 is 26 miles east of Mead. Just a short drive from Omaha, Lincoln, and Fremont, Mead is the best of small town living without being too far out in the country.
The former Nebraska Ordnance Plant once occupied over 17,000 acres near Mead in a rural part of Saunders County, 35 miles northeast of Lincoln, Nebraska. From 1942 to 1956, the primary function of the plant was munitions production at four bomb loading lines for both World War II and the Korean Conflict. The plant was also used for munitions storage and ammonium nitrate production. Some of the operations used organic solvents.
Beginning in 1962, portions of the former plant were sold or transferred to various other entities. Today, the major production area of the former plant, approximately 9,000 acres, belongs to the University of Nebraska and is used as an agricultural research station. The remaining acreage is currently owned by the Nebraska National Guard and numerous private individuals and corporations. The Nebraska National Guard uses 1,000 acres for training purposes.
In the late 1980s, the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District became concerned about the possibility of groundwater contamination at the Mead site. Two other former ordnance plants, near Hastings and Grand Island, had already been declared Superfund sites. The NRD, with help from Nebraska congressional representatives, began pressuring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to investigate the Mead site.
The former Nebraska Ordnance Plant was investigated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Defense Environmental Restoration Program. The site, however, is not currently owned by the Federal government. Included in the Corps investigation are the current university property, the current Nebraska National Guard property, and the former administration area, bomb booster assembly area, burning ground/sewage treatment area, and ammonium nitrate plant. In a study completed in April 1989, the Corps identified areas of soil contaminated by PCBs and munitions wastes, including trinitrotoluene (TNT) and cyclomethylenetrinitramine (RDX). The Corps also detected TNT, RDX, and trichloroethylene (TCE) in on-site monitoring wells, and RDX and TCE in off-site drinking water wells. An estimated 400 persons obtain drinking water from wells within 3 miles of the site. Ground water is also used for irrigation and livestock.
The Corps began their cleanup effort in 1994. From 1994-96, 1,250 tons of PCB-tainted soil were removed from the site and placed in a licensed hazardous waste landfill. For the RDX-contaminated soil, a large incinerator was built on-site in 1997. From October to December 1997, more than 16,000 tons of soil were burned in the incinerator at a temperature of 1700 degrees Fahrenheit, completely destroying the RDX. The remnants of the cleansed soil were buried on-site. The load lines, ordnance storage "igloos" and other buildings on University property were also demolished.
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