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University of Nebraska awaits judge's ruling on agreement regarding pollution cleanup


LINCOLN, Nebraska — The University of Nebraska and federal authorities are awaiting a judge's ruling on their agreement for the continuing cleanup of polluted areas on university land at the former Nebraska Ordnance plant site near Mead.

The consent decree between the university and the Environmental Protection Agency was filed Dec. 31 in U.S. District Court in Lincoln and is being reviewed by Judge John Gerrard, the Lincoln Journal Star reported ( ).

EPA attorney James Stevens said he doesn't expect a decision until after a 30-day comment period that began with the decree being filed. Stevens said such consent decrees are routine in any long-term remedial action and that the judge will review the agreement to ensure it's fair to both parties.

During the 1960s, about half of the former ordnance plant site in Saunders County was sold or granted to the university, which established an agricultural research and development center. The site's soil and groundwater already were contaminated with explosive compounds and toxic solvents from plant site, which once covered 17,250 acres and produced and stored bombs and other munitions during World War II and the Korean War. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the university hauled hazardous waste to the site and buried it.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has removed all of the contaminated soil where the munitions were made and stored and is continuing work on polluted groundwater. In 2007, the university started to dig up and haul its hazardous waste away for proper disposal.

"We have spent about $11.25 million for cleanup at Mead so far," university spokeswoman Melissa Lee said.

The EPA selected a plan in September 2013 for addressing the remaining contamination on university property and then worked with the university on formulating the consent decree. Lee said the university doesn't know yet how much the work outlined in the decree will cost.

Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,

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