Mississippi Phosphates site raises environmental concerns

Updated: Jul. 26, 2017 at 8:50 PM CDT
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PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Recent heavy rainfall has prompted some emergency environmental measures at the old Mississippi Phosphates plant in Pascagoula.

With heavy rainfall creating trouble at the site, the Environmental Protection Agency is discharging 30 million gallons of treated waste water from the facility into Bayou Cassotte.

The EPA took over the waste water treatment operations at the plant in February after the environmental trust fund set up by the former owners ran out of money.

"We were in good shape before Cindy and then Cindy hit and then Monday the real hammer was the near 5 inch rain Monday morning," said on-site EPA coordinator Leo Francendese.

The record rainfall threatened the waste water operation.

"You begin to compromise your ability to recover from that if you flood your operational systems, such as water treatment. So by emergency discharging 30 million gallons, it gives me the ability to continuously treat water. The last thing in the world you want to create is a catastrophic release," said Francendese.

Currently, the EPA has the capacity to treat roughly four million gallons of wastewater per day at a cost of $1 million per month.

The EPA hopes to avoid a repeat of a 2005 uncontrolled release that sent millions of gallons of waste water flowing toward Bang's Lake. The release killed countless trees, vegetation, fish and other aquatic life.

"When it rains, which we've had a lot of so far this year, that water has to go somewhere. And it's impacting the gyp stacks, it's impacting the plant site. So you've got to treat it before you can release it," said Jackson County emergency manager, Earl Etheridge. "An untreated release will do the same thing that happened in 2005. It'll be an environmental disaster,"

Each inch of rainfall at the site generates an additional nine million gallons of contaminated water.

As for this week's discharge into Bayou Cassotte, the EPA on site coordinator says they are closely monitoring the Ph of both the discharge and the water in the bayou, hoping to have a minimal impact.

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