PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - A public meeting Wednesday night in Pascagoula gave people the chance to hear about the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to clean up the old Mississippi Phosphates plant.
Project Manager Craig Zeller says $24.5 million has been spent on the cleanup. That’s out of the $107.6 million that is allotted for the project. Of that money, $71.6 million will be used for the cleanup and the remaining $36 million will go towards ongoing wastewater treatment.
Part of that plan includes covering the east gypsum stack. That’s a move that Zeller says will save taxpayers about $12 million a year It will also ease the burden on government caretakers of the property until it can be sold, he said.
“We’ve got about a 300 acre landfill out there, this east gypsum stack, that when rainfall hits it, it becomes contaminated,” explained Zeller. “So we’re kind of really in the rainwater treatment business. Every time it rains an inch, it creates nine million gallons of dirty water that the EPA then has to trap, hold on site, treat it, and then discharge it in a safe manner to the bayou. So that’s really not a sustainable model. We’re spending about a million dollars a month to do that. So the only way we know how to get out of this rainwater treatment business is to get that thing covered up.”
Zeller says funding for the project has been secured and construction on the cover should begin in a few weeks.
The cleanup plan focuses on the closure of the east gypsum stack and the north ponds at the west gypsum stack. It is expected to eliminate storage of more than 500 million gallons of contaminated water on site.
The MPC Site is a former diammonium phosphate fertilizer plant that began operation in the 1950s. It ceased operations in December 2014 under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, leaving more than 700,000,000 gallons of acidic, nutrient-rich wastewater stored at the facility.