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March 9, 2009

Attorney General: Sioux Pharm, Inc., Violated Environmental Laws


General Tom Miller filed an environmental lawsuit Monday alleging Sioux Pharm, Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Sioux Center, discharged wastewater into waters of the state, and committed other violations.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Sioux County District Court in Sioux Center. It asks the court to prohibit further violations and to assess civil penalties up to $5,000 per day per violation for multiple violations. [Go to Sioux Pharm lawsuit filed 3-9-09.]

The suit alleges Sioux Pharm illegally discharged pharmaceutical wastewater into surface and groundwater of the state, repeatedly failed to maintain adequate “freeboard” at its wastewater storage lagoon, failed to properly land-apply wastewater, and failed to comply with monitoring and reporting requirements for its wastewater lagoon.

More background and detail:

Sioux Pharm, Inc., has headquarters at 121-19th St. SW, Sioux Center.

The Sioux Pharm plant in Sioux Center produces pharmaceutical wastewater as a byproduct of its production of Chondroitin Sulfate. (According to Sioux Pharm’s web site, Chondroitin Sulfate is a nutritional supplement used to alleviate arthritis pain and assist in cartilage regeneration. It is made from bovine and other animal cartilage and is available over the counter and does not require a prescription.)

Wastewater from the plant is stored in an 860,000-gallon-capacity lagoon located in rural SW Sioux County. Approximately 12,000 gallons of wastewater per day is hauled by tanker truck from the plant to the lagoon. Wastewater from the lagoon later is land-applied in specified crop fields.

Sioux Pharm operates under various requirements of permits issued by the Department of Natural Resources, including the lagoon must have at least two feet of freeboard (clearance between the contents and the top of the lagoon berm); land-application must be done in specified fields and without any ponding of applied wastewater; monitoring reports must be provided regularly to the DNR; and there must be no waste discharge into waters of the state.

The lawsuit alleged numerous violations documented by the DNR in 2006, 2007, and 2008, including:

  • Numerous instances of inadequate ‘freeboard’ at the lagoon, and at least one instance where DNR officials observed wastewater overtopping the lagoon berm.
  • Instances of wastewater being land-applied to fields not approved for land-application, instances of ponding or puddles of land-applied wastewater, and instances of wastewater being surface-applied too close to a creek.
  • Failure to submit required operation monitoring reports to the DNR.
  • Instances of wastewater entering waters of the State, including a stream and a well.


In one instance, the DNR investigated a complaint that milky wastewater had been seen in an unnamed tributary to Six Mile Creek just south of the intersection of 470th St. and Chestnut Avenue in Sioux County. DNR officials were told by Sioux Pharm’s President, Dr. Allan Kramer, that a truck hauling soap solution and wastewater from the lagoon had become stuck in the mud at that location, and the driver had discharged 4,000 to 6,000 gallons of wastewater on the ground.

DNR samples of the stream showed high levels of oil and grease, ammonia, and BOD. According to local residents interviewed by DNR officials, the lawsuit said, the creek had been “white as milk” a few hours earlier.

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