MISSISSIPPI PHOSPHATES CORPORATION
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The Mississippi Phosphate Corporation (MPC) site is a former diammonium phosphate (DAP) fertilizer plant that began operation in the 1950s. The MPC facility ceased operations in December 2014 under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, leaving more than 700 million gallons of acidic contaminated wastewater stored at the facility.
In October 2014, MPC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and operations ceased at the facility in December 2014. Two trusts were created in 2015 as part of the bankruptcy proceedings: an Environmental Trust and a Liquidation Trust.
Since October 2015, the Environmental Trust, under the direction of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), has owned and operated the extensive phosphogypsum stack system (gypstacks) and waste water treatment plant at the former MPC facility. The Environmental Trust operated the facility on a day-to-day basis, continuing to treat and discharge, as well as manage water stored on-site through its environmental contractor, Allen Engineering.
The Environmental Trust’s primary activities focused on the management, treatment and discharge of impacted water at the site, which is generated solely through rainfall since fertilizer production has ceased. Facility maintenance costs are about $1 million per month. This large expense is due to the high volume of wastewater (primarily from rain and leachate) that requires treatment.
In January 2017, the State of Mississippi added $500,000 from the State’s Pollution Emergency Fund to the Environmental Trust. These additional funds have since been exhausted, and the Environmental Trust became insolvent on February 10, 2017.
The Liquidation Trust assumed control and ownership of the other portions of the former MPC facility, including the fertilizer production plants, commercial buildings, docks and other marketable real estate. The purpose of the Liquidation Trust is to market and sell these marketable portions of the former MPC facility.
What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?
The MPC facility ceased operations in December 2014 under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, leaving more than 700 million gallons of acidic contaminated wastewater stored at the facility.
2017 EPA assumed control and funding of wastewater treatment operations on February 11, 2017, after the MPC Environmental Trust became insolvent.
The Pascagoula area received 112 inches of rain in 2017; the annual average for the area is 66 inches. One inch of rain generates about 9 9 million additional gallons of contaminated water that must be treated. During the past year, EPA has treated over 850 million gallons of wastewater at a cost of about $1 million per month.
In addition, EPA discharged about 400 million gallons of partially treated waste water during five emergency bypass events. Bypass are intentional discharges of waste water that are typically conducted because heavy rain is forecasted to exceed storage capacity of the on-site phosphogypsum stacks and waste water treatment system. Bypasses are closely monitored to prevent eutrophication and algal blooms which take oxygen from the water and can have impacts on fish and mollusks populations. No adverse impacts have been observed, and no further bypasses have been necessary.
A Value Engineering study for the east gypsum stack was completed in June 2018. The study demonstrated that a cover/liner system of geosynthetic engineered turf saved about $6,000,000 in 30-year life cycle costs when compared to traditional soil cover systems. The turf system also eliminates 43,000 truck trips to haul cover soil and can be installed quicker which should reduce time required for on-going water treatment costs. East gypsum stack closure work on the west slope was initiated in November 2018. The engineered geosynthetic cover system has been purchased, and material delivery is anticipated in August 2019. Cover installation is expected to start in late August 2019. Once the west slope has been closed, work will begin on the south slope in late 2019.
What Is the Current Site Status?
EPA continues to treat acidic waste water at a rate of about one to three million gallons per day at a cost of about $1 million per month.
The Liquidation Trust has been actively marketing the 106-acre property to buyers with an interest in purchasing the MPC facility and redeveloping it for future use in accordance with state and federal environmental law. EPA Region 4, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality have worked with multiple parties to help facilitate the sale and beneficial reuse of the property.
A Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study and subsequent clean up on the Liquidation Trust property will be conducted once the scope of the future redevelopment work is determined.
EPA continues to develop a cleanup plan for other needed actions at the site.
East gypsum stack closure work on the west slope was initiated in November 2018. The engineered geosynthetic cover system has been purchased, and material delivery is anticipated in August 2019. Cover installation is expected to start in late August 2019. Once the west slope has been closed, work will begin on the south slope in late 2019.