Jackson County

Have something to say about Mississippi Phosphates? Now is your chance.

According to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, emissions from Mississippi Phosphates Corporation’s Pascagoula plant consisted of sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid and steam. Neither the agency nor the company would identify these emissions photographed in June 2014.
According to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, emissions from Mississippi Phosphates Corporation’s Pascagoula plant consisted of sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid and steam. Neither the agency nor the company would identify these emissions photographed in June 2014. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

The EPA is hosting a public meeting to explain the process of getting Mississippi Phosphates on the Superfund National Priorities List.

It is taking public comment until Oct. 2.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Pascagoula Senior Center, 1912 Live Oak Ave. The EPA will explain the process and go over how to submit comments.

The agency also invites the public to speak, but the comments won’t be recorded for the record. So if you plan to go and speak your mind, bring your comments in writing as well.

Local environmental groups are urging people to make the trip.

The Mississippi Phosphates site is mountains of acidic byproduct from a fertilizer plant that operated for 60 years along Bayou Casotte in east Pascagoula. One mound has been sealed. The other has a wastewater pond that is producing 9 million gallons of acidic water per inch of rainfall in the area. The gypsum in the mounds is also moderately radioactive.

The STEPS Coalition is reminding people the meeting is an opportunity “to make direct comments, ask questions, hold the officials accountable, and learn about the NPL process.

“The facility could potentially be sold and resume operations as before under a new company, which would lead to even more pollution. Please come out ... to make your voice heard,” it urged in a Facebook calendar post.

“This boondoggle is costing taxpayers a million dollars a month. It is a looming disaster that results from weak permitting and lack of proper oversight,” said Howard Page, community organizer for STEPS. He blames the state Legislature for not properly funding the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the governor’s office for not supporting MDEQ in its mission to protect public health and the environment.

The EPA is taking public comments online at regulations.gov or via mail. Identify the Mississippi Phosphates site by docket number EPA-HQ-OLEM-2017-0075.

Or mail a comment to: US EPA, EPA Superfund Docket Center, Mail Code 28221T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20460.

The EPA proposed Mississippi Phosphates as a superfund site. The process now is to further investigate the need.

The site is more than 1,000 acres at 601 Industrial Road. The former diammonium phosphate fertilizer plant used sulfuric acid during production, creating the acidic byproduct. When the business filed bankruptcy and ceased operation in 2014, it left 700 million gallons of untreated wastewater.

EPA’s Superfund program is responsible for cleaning up some of the nation’s most contaminated land and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters.

EPA public meeting:

When: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15

Where: Pascagoula Senior Center, 1912 Live Oak Ave., Pascagoula

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