EPA to Host Public Meeting to Present Cleanup Plan for Portions of the Mississippi Phosphates Corporation Site

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ATLANTA (December 21, 2017) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will host a public meeting to present the cleanup plan for portions of the former Mississippi Phosphates Corporation (MPC) site in Pascagoula, Miss. The meeting will be held on Thursday, January 11, 2018, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Pascagoula Senior Center, located at 1912 Live Oak Avenue, in Pascagoula, Miss.

This proposed action by EPA is early action which I have stressed and is part of our Task Force report,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Getting toxic land sites like the former Mississippi Phosphates Corporation site cleaned up without delay and revitalized is of the utmost importance to EPA, the State of Mississippi, and to communities across the country that are affected by these sites.”

MPC is a former diammonium phosphate fertilizer plant that ceased operations in December 2014 following bankruptcy, leaving more than 700,000,000 gallons of low-pH, contaminated wastewater stored at the facility. On Feb. 11, 2017, EPA assumed temporary control of wastewater treatment operations at the site once the MPC Environmental Trust, which owns the property, exhausted available funds.

EPA treats the wastewater to neutralize the pH and remove high levels of nutrients to prevent an uncontrolled release to Bayou Casotte and the Grand Bay Estuary Reserve. Neutralizing the pH prevents any acute toxicity impacts to aquatic wildlife. Removing nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorous and ammonia, prevents harmful algal blooms from forming.

The majority of the wastewater being treated at the site is generated by rainfall that becomes contaminated when it lands on acid-generating gypsum solids, or that falls directly onto ponds which hold contaminated water. Eliminating these sources of contact will substantially reduce the quantity and improve the quality of water requiring treatment, thus reducing the cost of treatment and risk of uncontrolled releases.

The cleanup plan is focused on closing the East Gypsum Stack and the Northern Ponds at the West Gypsum Stack, and the work is divided into three phases:

  • Phase 1 (2018) – Closure of the current East Gypsum Stack, including Pond 3 and Pond 4 and stack side slopes. Phase 1 will reduce the rain water contact area by 155 acres, or 41 percent;
  • Phase 2 (2019) – Closure of East Gypsum Stack Pond 5 and the West Gypsum Stack North Ponds. Phase 2 will reduce the rain water contact area by an additional 75 acres, or 62 percent total; and
  • Phase 3 (2020) – Closure of East Gypsum Stack Pond 6 and the water return ditch around the perimeter of the East Gypsum Stack. Phase 3 results in 100 percent closure.

The public will be invited to comment on the proposed cleanup plan for phases 1-3, detailed in an Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis (EE/CA report), during a 30-day public comment period beginning January 11, 2017, when the EE/CA report is released.

These first phases of cleanup will be followed at a later date by a site-wide final cleanup remedy decision. EPA will present its recommended site-wide cleanup remedy to the public for input before a final decision is made.

EPA is currently overseeing wastewater treatment at a rate of approximately 2,000,000 gallons per day – at a cost of approximately $1,000,000 per month – due to the high volume of wastewater generated that requires treatment. EPA will continue to oversee wastewater treatment operations at the MPC site until the facility is sold or cleaned up and closed.

EPA proposed listing the site on the Superfund National Priorities List on August 3, 2017. On December 8, 2017, EPA announced that the MPC site is among those that Administrator Pruitt has targeted for immediate and intense attention. The 21 sites on the list – from across the United States – are in direct response to the Superfund Task Force Recommendations, issued this summer, calling for this list.

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