Mississippi Phosphates set to be sentenced in pollution case

Mississippi Phosphates set to be sentenced in pollution case

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The charge is unpermitted discharge of pollutants into Bayou Casotte. The company reportedly responsible for polluting the bayou is Mississippi Phosphates. Its representatives will be in a Gulfport courtroom August 19, reportedly to enter a plea and be sentenced for the federal offense.

On July 27, a federal judge unsealed court papers that charge Mississippi Phosphates with illegally discharging pollutants into Bayou Casotte.  If true, that's a violation of the Clean Water Act.  The court documents say Mississippi Phosphates representatives will be in court August 19 for a plea hearing and sentencing.

The six page criminal complaint alleges that in 2013 and 2014, Mississippi Phosphates violated the terms of its permit.  In August, 2013, the government contends the Jackson County fertilizer plant discharged more than 39 million gallons of acidic wastewater into Bayou Casotte.  The court document says that discharge resulted in the death of more than 47,000 fish.  And it forced the closure of the bayou.

Six month later, the feds say Mississippi Phosphates violated its permit again.  The plant reportedly discharged oily wastewater from an open gate on a storm water culvert.  That discharge created an oily sheen that extended a mile down the bayou.

In the six page complaint, prosecutors spell out a history of clean water act violations at Mississippi Phosphates, going as far back as 2000.

"In the years following this environmental catastrophe, in spite of MDEQ's orders and MPC's remedial proposals," the U.S. Attorney writes in the court document, "MPC never implemented the measures necessary to prevent the release of pollutants from its facility and the discharge of an even larger torrent of wastewater destroying even more marine life."

Last October, Mississippi Phosphates filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.  At the time, it said nobody would be laid off. The Pascagoula-based fertilizer manufacturer announced it would continue normal operations while moving forward with bankruptcy proceedings. The company said the move was necessary to obtain sufficient additional funding for its ongoing operations.

"We expect that through this filing, we can gain needed relief, secure an updated credit and funding facility and return to production operations in an expedited manner," said Stephen S. Russo, chief executive officer. "In addition to resuming operations, our plans call for the Company to continue maintenance and all environmental and safety programs during this reorganization."

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