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Residents Granted More Time to File Odor Complaints with South Sioux City

South Sioux City’s Health Board met on Wednesday, March 29 to discuss the noxious odor still affecting numerous residents who have been unable to return home since October of 2016.

Families in nearly 60 houses in a five-block area of Lemasa Drive and Red Bird Lane by 39th street were forced out of their homes last fall when they noticed those noxious odors seeping into their homes. The residents are focusing their blame on Big Ox Energy, which opened a renewable energy plant shortly before the issue started. Both Big Ox and the city have stated that the smells are actually connected to plumbing issues in the 60 or so homes.

Mayor Rod Koch noted that only three residents have filed complaints since the Health Board’s last meeting on March 15th. None of these complaints were related to the odors.

Attorney David Domina, who is representing 13 of the displaced families in conjunction with Sioux City attorney Brian Buckmeier in pending litigation stated that the city “will have more [complaints]” shortly. City attorney Wayne Boyd recommended that any action on the odor item should be delayed, and the meeting rescheduled in order to give the residents more time. Domina estimated that a 30-day extension would be sufficient.

“The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is getting everyone back in their homes, get everyone back to where they were — get everybody home again — and to make sure nothing like this ever happens again… And to make sure that everyone learns something about sewers and how they work and how to handle a crisis and to really take care of our citizens. I think all of us could have done a better job on all accounts, including myself,” Koch said.

While the city works to resolve these issues, they have been making progress towards protecting residents from facing issues like this again in the future. They recently updated a sewage ordinance first put in place in the 1970s in order to better monitor the pH levels of major industrial sewage waste, and approved a $1.29 million bid to construct a force main project to ship industrial waste directly from Big Ox Energy’s plant to the Sioux City Wastewater Treatment Plant while completely avoiding residential areas.

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