MS Phosphates faces federal violation and violation of neighbors - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

MS Phosphates faces federal violation and violation of neighbors' trust

Opal and Gary Smith look over their backyard in east Pascagoula that is just off Bayou Casotte. (Photo source: WLOX) Opal and Gary Smith look over their backyard in east Pascagoula that is just off Bayou Casotte. (Photo source: WLOX)
PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) -

Mississippi Phosphates is facing federal charges of violation of the Clean Water Act. A federal judge unsealed court papers this week that claim the East Jackson County fertilizer plant illegally discharged pollutants into Bayou Casotte.

The criminal complaint alleges that in 2013 and 2014, Mississippi Phosphates violated the terms of its permit. Prosecutors say there is a history of Clean Water Act violations at the plant going back as far as 2000.

While the plant is charged with violating federal law, it has also violated the trust of its neighbors. Gary Smith has been in this area of Pascagoula since the 1940s, and he’s fed up with the pollution.

“They have provided several jobs for a lot of people over the years,” Smith said. “But, they never have been a good citizen. There has been pollution throughout the time they’ve been here. I hope they shut them down and never let them reopen.”

Smith and his wife live near a beautiful inlet that borders their back yard and harbors boats ready to head out to open water. He says he won't be heading to Bayou Casotte any time soon.

“If they get this water cleaned up, and that stuff stays around for years after you put it in there, I might go back out there,” Smith said. “But I don’t fish out there now.”

The federal court document says the plant discharged more than 39 million gallons of acidic waste water into Bayou Casotte, resulting in the death of more than 47,000 fish.

Six months later, federal prosecutors say Mississippi Phosphates violated its permit again, discharging oily waste water.

Last October, Mississippi Phosphates filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Officials say during reorganization, the company would continue maintenance and all environmental and safety programs.

Representatives of the company will be in a Gulfport courtroom Aug. 19 for a plea hearing and sentencing.

Jeffery King has lived in the neighborhood on Seminole Street for 13 years.

“I used to go to Bayou Casotte all the time and fish after I get off of work,” King said. “I looked forward to it. But now since the water and the pollution has been going on, I stopped fishing and sold my boat and just do something else in my pass time.”

Neighbor J.B. George has lived in the area for 34 years. He said the pollution didn't personally affect him. He takes his boat out away from the bayou, but he is concerned about any pollution.

“You know, Bayou Cumbest and the area east of here, I guess we’ve been hunting and fishing there for ever since I was a child, and it is a major concern to us as far as the pollution and the effects on our lives,” George said.

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