SOUTH SIOUX CITY | Two more South Sioux City homeowners have sued the city and Big Ox Energy, raising the number of lawsuits concerning odors and gases from the bioenergy plant to eight.
Kirk and Angela Campbell and Christopher Cornell filed their suits last week in Dakota County District Court. Like the homeowners in the previous six suits, the Campbells and Cornell claim that odors and hazardous gases damaged their homes and caused health problems after the plant opened in September 2016.
All homeowners allege in their lawsuits said that Big Ox and the city failed to maintain, operate and modify wastewater treatment facilities and sewer systems to handle waste from the plant and prevent the release of hydrogen sulfate and other toxic gases. As a result, the homeowners all say, they and their children suffer from health problems including respiratory illnesses, headaches, nausea, sleep disturbances, anxiety and emotional distress.
The lawsuits allege that Big Ox and the city knew or should have known after initial tests of the plant's operations in August 2016 that the municipal sewer system would unable to handle the pressures and substances being released into it, leading to the release of gases that escaped through manholes and into residences near the plant.
The Denmark, Wisconsin-based company has denied the allegations.
The Campbells and Cornell seek reimbursement for the loss of the use of their homes, demolition and reconstruction of their homes and loss of furnishings ruined by odors.
The Campbells claim damages of $754,000, and Cornell lists $614,500 in damages. All costs are accruing because of the continued loss of use of their property.
Damages being sought in the other five lawsuits total $4.25 million.
Big Ox Energy's more than $30 million plant extracts organic nutrients from animal, grain and other waste to create methane, which is sold into the natural gas pipeline. The plant went online Sept. 2, 2016, in the Roth Industrial Park.
Residents began reporting odors from the plant a month later, when sewer gas permeated some homes in a five-block area near the plant. Big Ox maintains that faulty plumbing in the homes, not wastewater, was the primary cause of the odor issues.
The families were displaced for months because of the odors, and some have yet to return home. The city and Big Ox have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover displaced homeowners' relocation and living expenses. The city has also spent $1.5 million for sewer upgrades and modifications.
In May, 16 families and one business filed tort claims against the city, suggesting that more lawsuits will be filed.