October 5, 2017
In anticipation of heavy rainfall and storm surge associated with Tropical Storm Nate, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that a discharge of wastewater will begin today at the Mississippi Phosphates Corporation (MPC) Site in Pascagoula, Miss. This intentional discharge of wastewater, known as a bypass, is being conducted because rain and associated storm surge from the advancing storm is forecasted to exceed storage capacity of the on-site phosphogypsum stacks and wastewater treatment system. Prior to Tropical Storm Nate making landfall as a hurricane, EPA is also implementing the Hurricane Response Plan for the Site and will be installing the hurricane storm surge gates.
Maintaining site safety is EPA’s top priority in order to protect workers, nearby residents and the surrounding environment. EPA is coordinating closely with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and local officials to closely monitor the weather forecast and determine appropriate next steps.
Over the past 36 hours, Tropical Storm Nate has tracked further westward and is currently forecasted to make landfall near coastal Mississippi. Between three to five inches of rain are forecasted for the Pascagoula area. Based on the uncertainty of the final landfall and potential increase of rainfall and storm surge, EPA plans to discharge approximately 40 million gallons of wastewater to ensure there is adequate storage on-site for additional rainfall and reduce risks of uncontrolled releases.
EPA will keep potentially impacted stakeholders informed of site conditions and of any additional public precautionary measures needed.
Wastewater bypasses authorized by the EPA must follow strict guidelines laid out in the Contingency Plan for Bypass and Spill Response for the facility. Discharged wastewater is partially treated and there are no anticipated impacts to the environment. EPA will continue sampling and monitoring of Bayou Casotte per the Contingency Plan.
MPC is a former diammonium phosphate fertilizer plant that began operation in the 1950s. The facility ceased operations in December 2014 under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, 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 former MPC fertilizer facility once the MPC Environmental Trust, which owns the property, ran out of funds. Currently, EPA is overseeing wastewater treatment at a rate of approximately 2 million gallons per day. 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 8, 2017.
For more information about the Site, please visit: www.epa.gov/superfund/ms-