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Plant Fined for Wastewater Problems

The plant is exceeding its daily limits on solids.

Big Ox 2

SIOUX CITY, IOWA (AP) — Sioux City has issued $77,500 in fines to a Nebraska plant for exceeding its daily limits on solids sent to the city's wastewater treatment plant, as local officials also consider the company's permit renewal request.

The city in northwestern Iowa granted Wisconsin-based Big Ox Energy an industrial wastewater discharge permit in 2016. The company's Nebraska plant converts organic waste into methane gas for commercial use, and then sends its waste to the Sioux City treatment plant.

The city has issued more than a dozen citations to the company, which officials say has exceeded a daily limit of about 48,000 pounds of solids that it's allowed to send to the plant at least 33 times since June, the Sioux City Journal reported. The permit also includes a requirement that the monthly average remain at 20,000 pounds per day.

"The amount of solids we've seen from their discharge is sometimes at extreme levels," city utilities director Mark Simms said.

Simms said the city began seeing issues with the discharge in March 2018. The releases have put the city at risk of violating its own wastewater treatment permit with the state.

Big Ox Energy is working with the city, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to resolve the issues, said company spokesman Kevin Bradley.

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

The city hasn't issued any citations to the company since Jan. 23. Simms said the plant had "a good month in February." Big Ox has also been under scrutiny after residents near its Nebraska facility complained about the plant's odor.

Big Ox has mentioned equipment failures but hasn't provided a full explanation behind the increase in discharges, said Justin Vondrak, the assistant city attorney.

"The ultimate goal from the city is for Big Ox to be in compliance with their permit and for the city to be in compliance with its (DNR) permit," Vondrak said.

The city is currently reviewing the company's permit renewal request since the current permit expires April 30, Simms said.

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