The Iowa Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit Monday against a pharmaceutical company in Sioux Center. The lawsuit claims Sioux Pharm, Incorporated violated a number of Department of Natural Resources regulations between 2006 and 2008.
Attorney General’s office spokesperson Bob Brammer says one of the problems involved Sioux Pharm’s handling of pharmaceutical wastewater at a storage lagoon. "The (water) overflowed the lagoon on at least one occasion and other times was way too close to the top compared to what they are required to do under permits they have with the D.N.R.," Brammer said.
According to the company’s website, Sioux Pharm produces a nutritional supplement used to alleviate arthritis pain and assist in cartilage regeneration. Around 12,000 gallons of wastewater per day is hauled by tanker truck from the Sioux Pharm facility to a lagoon in rural southwest Sioux County. The wastewater from the lagoon is later applied to specified fields.
Sioux Pharm is accused "over-applying" the wastewater or doing so too close to a creek. Brammer says, in some instances, the wastewater ended up contaminating state streams and a well. One violation involved a tanker truck that became stuck in the mud and the driver allegedly discharged up to 6,000 gallons of wastewater on the ground. The wastewater ended up in an unnamed tributary to Six Mile Creek.
"According to local observers, it made (the tributary) as white as milk," Brammer said. "The D.N.R. sampled it and found high levels of oil, grease and ammonia." Sioux Pharm is also accused of failing to submit required operation monitoring reports to the D.N.R.
Brammer calls the violations "significant." The Attorney General’s office has asked the Sioux County District Court to assess civil penalties of up to $5,000 per day, per violation.
"We certainly allege that there were multiple violations, but it will ultimately be up to the court to determine if there were violations, how many and what kind of civil penalties (would be assessed)," Brammer said. Sioux Pharm first started doing business in Sioux Center in 1998. A spokesperson with the company declined to comment, telling Radio Iowa he had not seen the lawsuit.