Wastewater Violations in Iowa City

March 18, 2019

Big Ox Energy in Sioux City, Iowa, owes the city unpaid fines for wastewater violations

In Sioux City, Iowa, Big Ox Energy owes the city $77,500 in fines levied against the company for dumping large amounts of suspended solid waste into the city's wastewater treatment plant and other violations, a review of city records shows.

According to Sioux City Journal, while the city awaits payment, the city is also waiting for answers from the company about what has caused its plant to exceed daily limits of solids sent to the wastewater treatment plant at least 33 times since June.

"They have referenced equipment failures, but beyond that, we haven't been given any solid indication what caused the increased loadings," said Justin Vondrak, assistant city attorney.

The increased loadings included in Big Ox's industrial user wastewater discharge permit with the city have caused damage at the wastewater treatment plant and now place the city at risk of violating its own wastewater treatment permit with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, according to Sioux City Journal.

State regulators indicated that they are far from coming down on the city or the company because of the overloading issues, however, the city could face litigation concerning Big Ox's wastewater permit, according to Sioux City Journal. The city may be forced to take legal action to collect the unpaid fines.

"We're probably going to end up in court, which is pretty unfortunate, but what else are you going to do?" said Mayor Bob Scott.

According to Sioux City Journal, Vondrak declined to comment on whether the city can terminate Big Ox's permit, a move that likely would result in litigation.

"If Big Ox continued to operate the way that it had, I believe that revocation of the permit would be a possibility," he said.

Big Ox spokesman Kevin Bradley declined to comment on the fines the company owes. According to the journal, Bradley said Big Ox is working with the city, the DNR and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to resolve the issues, which he said have improved in recent weeks.

"The plant and water cleanup has worked better than ever since startup," Bradley said.