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Big Ox Expects To Stop Paying Hotel Bills for Displaced Residents, Looks to Get Them Home

South Sioux City homeowners who were forced out of their homes over health risks caused by noxious sewer gasses more than three months ago may not receive financial assistance from Big Ox Energy, the company responsible for the leak, for much longer.

According to Big Ox Energy spokesman Evan Zeppos, the company will stop paying for the hotel costs of these displaced homeowners on February 7, the same day they plan to have all remaining families back in their homes.

"We are now working with the residents who we've been in touch with to get them back into their homes," Zeppos said. "We are working with them on individual remediation plans… If need be, on a sort of case-by-case basis we can and will extend that Feb. 7 date by a reasonable amount."

While the energy company plans to stop paying for these housing costs, they will still pay for “reasonable” remediation costs according to Zeppos. He did not provide more details about how further extensions would be granted. Lance Hedquist, an administrator for South Sioux City commented that while he was aware of the deadline, the city had not discussed using city funds to cover the hotel costs of the displaced residents.

Jonathan Goodier, one of the residents displaced by the gas leak stands in his temporarily abandoned home. Photo via Omaha World-Herald Report.

While Zeppos said that Big Ox contacted the residents about the February 7 deadline lawyers, at least one, Mike Klassen, had not been contacted as of Wednesday, February 1. While he heard rumors about the timing, it wasn’t in line with previous indications about the amount of time he and other residents would have to prepare for their move.

"If you get kicked out of an apartment, they give you 30 days," he said. "As far as I’m concerned, today is not enough time."

Klassen recently visited him home to see whether the problem was finally gone, but still found that a terrible smell lingered, and something made his eyes burn.

"I’m not convinced my house can’t be saved. I think it can be," Klassen said. "But I need to know it’s safe to live in and that the odor won’t hurt me."

David Domina, an attorney at the Domina Law Group is working with some of the homeowners, including Klassen, in order to determine what legal options they have moving forwards. Domina expressed concern that some of the homeowners who lack legal representation may be moving out of their hotels too soon.

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