Jackson County

Mississippi Phosphates long closed, but still generating lots of pollution, EPA says

The Environmental Protection Agency, overseeing operations at defunct Mississippi Phosphates Corp. in Pascagoula, wants to add the former fertilizer plant to its Superfund list.
The Environmental Protection Agency, overseeing operations at defunct Mississippi Phosphates Corp. in Pascagoula, wants to add the former fertilizer plant to its Superfund list. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to add Mississippi Phosphates Corp. to its list of federal Superfund sites, which would make the defunct plant eligible for cleanup at taxpayer expense.

The fertilizer plant on Industrial Road in Pascagoula opened in the 1950s and closed in December 2014 with 700 million gallons of contaminated wastewater stored on site. Every inch of rainfall adds more than 9 million gallons of contaminated water to the total.

The EPA in February took over wastewater treatment at the plant, at a rate of 2 million gallons a day, an EPA news release about potential Superfund designation says. Treatment costs $1 million a month, the EPA says.

Because of anticipated heavy rainfall, the EPA recently released treated waste from the plant into Bayou Cassotte, which empties into Pascagoula Bay and the Mississippi Sound. Wastewater is partially treated before release, the EPA says, alleviating environmental harm.

EPA assumed oversight at the plant after property owner MPC Environmental Trust became insolvent. During the intervening months, EPA has been evaluating the site’s suitability for the Superfund list.

An EPA spokesman said the public will have six months to comment before a decision is made about Superfund status, with the goal of returning the property to productive use.

“Community partnerships are critical to Superfund site cleanups,” the news release said. “EPA’s goal is to work with community partners at every site by establishing an effective process to fully explore future uses before the cleanup remedy’s selection. This approach gives EPA the best chance of ensuring remedies are consistent with a site’s likely future use.”

Public comments on the Superfund designation for the plant can be emailed to superfund.docket@epa.gov or mailed to Docket Coordinator, Headquarters; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; CERCLA Docket Office, 5305T; 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW; Washington, DC 20460.

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