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Big Ox employee rushed to hospital after sustaining minor chemical burns

Big Ox employee rushed to hospital after sustaining minor chemical burns

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Big Ox Energy

An 11th lawsuit has been filed against the City of South Sioux City and renewable fuels plant Big Ox Energy for emission of odors and gases shortly after the plant went online in September 2016.

SOUTH SIOUX CITY — Emergency responders were called to the Big Ox Energy plant in South Sioux City shortly before 2 p.m. after two employees were exposed to unidentified chemicals.

One employee sustained minor chemical burns and was rushed to a local medical center where the person is still being treated, according to Kevin Bradley, a spokesman for Big Ox. The second employee also was taken to the hospital as a precaution, but has since been released.

"Like any kind of industrial accident or incident — as the case may be — we certainly will be working with OSHA on this and we'll report as we are required as so on and we'll work cooperatively with them," Bradley said.

Big Ox is in the midst of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation that began in October after someone on site was hospitalized due to an exposure to hydrogen sulfide. 

Additionally, another employee was injured in December after being exposed to hydrogen sulfide, which can cause death after prolonged exposure, according to OSHA.

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas produced by bacterial breakdown of organic material. It's typically associated with a rotten egg smell and can occur at plants like Big Ox, which converts organic waste into methane gas.

The October incident that first sparked the OSHA investigation was reported about the same time as several homeowners in South Sioux City began reporting foul odors emanating from the sewer system they share with the plant. The odors have been traced to sulfides originating from the facility. The problem forced the residents out of their homes to live at hotels in town at Big Ox's expense. 

In addition to reporting this latest incident to OSHA, Bradley said Big Ox will conduct its own investigation into the matter.

"We will conduct our own investigation with our safety personnel to make sure that if there are any corrective actions that need to be put in place they are to ensure we have a safe workplace for our employees," he said.

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