SOUTH SIOUX CITY -- Legal issues for Big Ox Energy continue to mount, as a Le Mars, Iowa, trucking company has gone to court seeking more than $30,000 it says the biofuels producer owes for hauling several truckloads of materials.
Anthony Pit & Lagoon Inc., also known as Anthony P&L, filed its lawsuit in Dakota County Court Monday, saying Big Ox has not paid $30,860 for transportation services provided in February and March. The lawsuit did not say what types of services Anthony P&L provided.
The lawsuit gives some credence to rumors of financial difficulties faced by the Wisconsin-based Big Ox, which in April idled its South Sioux City plant that, prior to its shutdown, 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.
In mid April, Big Ox announced a temporary halt in biogas production in order to inspect and repair problematic equipment that had led to solid waste spills and releases of hydrogen sulfide gas into the atmosphere. The plant completely shut down at the end of April after the City of Sioux City declined to renew the company's wastewater treatment permit, leaving Big Ox with nowhere to pump its wastewater.
The city's action was due in large part to outstanding fees, fines and other charges of more than $3 million, a total Big Ox is disputing.
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 biogas production, Big Ox sent letters to vendors, suppliers and contractors, asking them to send current billing statements.
Big Ox officials have since declined to comment on the company's financial situation.
Since Big Ox began operations in September 2016, it has been the subject of odor complains from residents living near the plant. A class action lawsuit has been filed against the company in federal court claiming that its odors are a nuisance and the result of negligence. Another 15 homeowners have filed individual lawsuits against the company and South Sioux City, claiming that toxic odors and gases backed up into their homes shortly after the plant began operations, causing health issues and making their homes uninhabitable.
The plant has been cited for environmental and permit violations a combined nine times by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, prompting the NDEQ to schedule a show cause hearing next month in Lincoln, where Big Ox will be asked to justify why its storm water and air quality permits shouldn't be revoked.