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Big Ox Energy

A truck hauls solid waste from the Big Ox Energy plant in South Sioux City in this April file photo. A judge has filed a default judgment of $506,015 against the company.

OMAHA -- A federal judge has awarded a judgment of half a million dollars to a supplier that sued Big Ox Energy for not paying for items the biofuels producer had ordered.

U.S. District Judge Brian Buescher granted Water Engineering Inc.'s request last week for a $506,015 default judgment, ruling that Big Ox did not answer or respond to Water Engineering's initial complaint.

Water Engineering filed its complaint in July in U.S. District Court in Omaha, seeking payment for chemicals, equipment parts and a pump that were shipped to the South Sioux City facility from Dec. 27 through April 25.

Based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, with a location in Mead, Nebraska, Water Engineering is the second known company to receive a default judgment against Big Ox for unpaid bills. In August, Judge Kurt Rager awarded $30,860 to Anthony Pit & Lagoon Inc., of Le Mars, Iowa, which had sued Big Ox in Dakota County Court for nonpayment of hauling truckloads of materials earlier this year.

Rumors of financial difficulties faced by the Wisconsin-based Big Ox began to surface in April, when the company idled its plant after the City of Sioux City declined to renew the company's wastewater treatment permit. The city's action was due in part to outstanding fees, fines and other charges of more than $3 million, a total Big Ox disputes.

Prior to its shutdown, Big Ox accepted organic waste from local food and beverage manufacturers and converted it to methane. Big Ox also received wastewater from other South Sioux City industries, pretreated it and discharged it to Sioux City's treatment plant.

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South Sioux City officials have said that Big Ox also owes that city for sewer, electric and water use, but have not divulged how much is due. At the time it suspended production, Big Ox sent letters to vendors, suppliers and contractors, asking them to send current billing statements.

Big Ox officials have declined to comment on the company's financial situation.

Since Big Ox began operations in September 2016, it has been subject to odor complaints and lawsuits from residents living near the plant. The plant also has been cited numerous times by Nebraska and federal environmental agencies for solid waste spills and releases of hydrogen sulfide gas into the atmosphere.

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1887 Corn Palace
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The Huskers, 1891
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Sioux City Corn Palace 1891
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Electrical Supply Co. Exhibit

Big Ox has filed a counterclaim in which it said an engineering firm and a soybean processor that was sending waste to Big Ox for treatment are to blame for the odors and gas releases.

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy is currently determining whether to revoke Big Ox's storm water and air quality permits.

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