The EPA took control of the two huge gypsum mounds along Industrial Road east of Pascagoula last month.
The $12 million trust that Mississippi Phosphates set up to maintain treatment of the super-acidic wastewater from the mounds ran out in January after only 17 months. And the federal government, with state help, has had to step up for environmental reasons.
Mississippi Phosphates was a fertilizer plant that opened in the 1950s, ceased operations in December 2014 and declared bankruptcy under Chapter 11 protection, leaving more than 7 million gallons of highly acidic, contaminated wastewater stored at the plant.
The federal government is planning a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Pascagoula Senior Center, 1912 Live Oak Avenue, to let the city and the Coast know what’s going on.
Right now, they are treating waste water at a rate of about 2 million gallons a day.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The announcement says the EPA assumed temporary control of wastewater treatment after the trust, which owns the property, ran out of money.
Right now, the EPA is treating wastewater at a rate of about 2 million gallons a day. The state Department of Environmental Quality is coordinating with the EPA.
The mounds of industrial gypsum are so tall they can be seen from the high-rise bridge on the other side of Pascagoula.
Rain water that collects on them becomes dangerously acidic and must be treated to protect the surrounding landscape and waterways.
A number of years ago, there was a breach at the plant, and the water that spilled killed plant and water life in nearby Bangs Lake.
Since October 2015, the trust the company set up under the direction of the DEQ has handled the treatment systems at the plant. The trust was part of the bankruptcy proceedings.
The primary focus has been managing and treating the acid water, the EPA said.
It costs about $1 million a month to maintain the shuttered plant and grounds because so much polluted water is generated there, the EPA said. The agencies are overseeing treatment of water that comes from rain runoff that oozes from the stacks.
In January, Mississippi added $500,000 from the state’s Pollution Emergency Fund to the trust, which was initially $12 million. That money has been exhausted, and the trust became insolvent Feb. 10, the EPA said.
Since manufacturing ceased at Mississippi Phosphates, the EPA’s Region 4 in Atlanta, the U.S. Department of Justice and the DEQ have worked with multiple parties to negotiate a sale of the property in hopes of finding a beneficial reuse of the plant. The measures taken by EPA are to maintain environmental stability at the plant site during negotiations.
The EPA release said:
▪ Prior to bankruptcy, Mississippi Phosphates manufactured diammonium phosphate fertilizer from phosphate rock it received from ocean-bound vessels, and from sulphur, which was piped to its plant from a neighboring oil refinery.
▪ In producing fertilizer, the plant generated a variety of solid and hazardous wastes, substances and pollutants and was regulated under a number of federal and state environmental statutes.
▪ The manufacturing process produced strong acids and ammonia. If improperly discharged, they can be highly toxic to fish and other forms of marine life.
▪ The phosphogypsum in the stacks contains heavy metals and its leachate is acidic.
EPA representatives and contractors who are overseeing activities at the site will be at the meeting Thursday to answer questions.
Public meeting on Mississippi Phosphates site
- When: 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday
- Where: Pascagoula Senior Center, 1912 Live Oak Avenue
- Details: EPA representatives and contractors who are overseeing activities at Mississippi Phosphates will be available to answer questions.