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EPA Adds Mississippi Phosphates Corporation Site to National Priorities List to Clean Up Contamination

01/09/2018

Contact Information: 

Davina Marraccini (marraccini.davina@epa.gov)

404-562-8293, 404-562-8400

ATLANTA (January 9, 2018) –  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added the Mississippi Phosphates Corporation (MPC) site in Pascagoula, Miss., along with three other sites across the country to the Superfund Program’s National Priorities List (NPL). An additional 10 hazardous waste sites were proposed for listing on the NPL.

Superfund, which Congress established in 1980, investigates and cleans up hazardous waste sites and converts them into community resources. EPA adds sites to the NPL when contamination threatens human health and the environment. Only sites added to the NPL are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term cleanup.

“Today’s action ensures the necessary resources are available for effective and safe revitalization of some of the most contaminated sites across the country,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Superfund clean-up continues to be a priority at EPA as we work intently to create a safer and healthier environment for all communities affected.”

EPA adds sites to the NPL when contamination threatens human health and the environment. EPA deletes sites from the NPL once all response actions are complete and all cleanup goals have been achieved. EPA typically initiates Superfund involvement because states, tribes or citizens ask for the Agency’s help. The Agency may also find contamination during its own investigations.

Mississippi Phosphates Corporation is a former diammonium phosphate fertilizer plant that began operation in the 1950s. The facility ceased operations in December 2014 under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, leaving more than 700,000,000 gallons of low-pH, contaminated wastewater stored at the facility. On Feb. 11, 2017, EPA assumed temporary control of wastewater treatment operations at the former MPC fertilizer facility once the MPC Environmental Trust, which owns the property, ran out of funds. EPA is overseeing wastewater treatment at a rate of approximately 2,000,000 gallons per day—at a cost of approximately $1,000,000 per month—due to the high volume of wastewater generated that requires treatment.

EPA proposed listing the MPC site on the Superfund National Priorities List on Aug. 3, 2017. On Dec. 8, 2017, EPA announced that the MPC site is among those that Administrator Pruitt has targeted for immediate and intense attention. The 21 sites on the list – from across the United States – are in direct response to the Superfund Task Force Recommendations, issued this summer, calling for this list.

Superfund addresses a variety of sites. While many Superfund sites were contaminated decades ago, at least six of the sites EPA is adding or proposing today – including the MPC site – were in operation within the last 15 years. These sites have contamination from a variety of sources, including manufacturing, electroplating and metal finishing.

When EPA cleans up a site or a portion of a site, the site is available for beneficial uses. More than 850 Superfund sites nationwide have some type of actual or planned reuse underway.

Community partnerships are critical to Superfund site cleanups. EPA’s goal is to work with community partners at every site by establishing a process to explore future uses before the cleanup remedy’s selection. This gives EPA the best chance of ensuring remedies are consistent with a site’s likely future use.

The Superfund law directs EPA to update the NPL at least annually.

For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for the final and proposed sites: www.epa.gov/superfund/current-npl-updates-new-proposed-npl-sites-and-new-npl-sites

For information about Superfund and the NPL: www.epa.gov/superfund

For information about the proposed MPC site: www.epa.gov/superfund/ms-phosphates-corp

Connect with EPA Region 4 on Facebook: www.facebook.com/eparegion4


MISSISSIPPI PHOSPHATES CORPORATION
PASCAGOULA, MS

Superfund Site Profile

Site Contacts

Community Involvement Coordinator
Kyle Bryant
(404) 562-9073

Remedial Project Manager
Craig Zeller
(404) 562-8827

View all site contacts »

Site Location

Street Address:
601 Industrial Road
PASCAGOULA, MS 39581

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Announcements and Key Topics

January 2018
EPA formally added the MPC Site to the Superfund National Priorities List and proposed a cleanup plan for portions of the MPC Site.

April 16, 2018
EPA released an updated Administrator’s Emphasis List of Superfund sites targeted for immediate and intense attention. The Emphasis List is part of the Superfund Task Force recommendations. The MPC site was later …
Continue reading announcements and key topics »

Background

 

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?

2014
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.

2018
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.


What Are the Risks at the Site?

Without daily active wastewater management and additional surge capacity, there may be a release of acidic wastewater and nutrients (phosphorous, ammonia and nitrogen) to Bayou Casotte and the Grand Bay Estuary Reserve. The wastewater, if improperly discharged, may be toxic to fish and other forms of marine life, and can also cause algal blooms.

Large, catastrophic releases of acidic, nutrient-rich wastewater occurred in 2005 and 2013 (before EPA began overseeing wastewater treatment operations on-site). Previous releases have caused devastating fish kills in Bayou Casotte and the Grand Bay Estuary Reserve. The public uses Bayou Casotte and the Grand Bay Estuary Reserve for fishing and recreation.

EPA samples multiple locations throughout Bayou Casotte twice a day—and even after previous intentional bypass events—the concentrations have remained at levels that do not pose long-term risks to the environment.

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Contaminant Information

EPA treats the wastewater with lime during normal operations, or sodium hydroxide during bypasses, to neutralize pH and prevent any acute toxicity impacts to aquatic wildlife. The other contaminants in the wastewater, including nitrogen, phosphorous and ammonia, are associated with nutrient loading which poses chronic risk to aquatic wildlife only after long-term exposure.

View a full list of contaminants of concern for this site.

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Performance Measures

EPA uses performance measures to track environmental results at Superfund sites. If you have any questions or concerns about the measures at this site, please contact the site team members listed under Site Contacts.

Read more about Superfund Remedial Performance Measures.

Performance
Measure
Status at this
Superfund Site
What does this mean?
Human Exposure Under Control Insufficient Data Yes means assessments indicate that across the entire site:

  1. There are currently no unacceptable human exposure pathways; and
  2. EPA has determined the site is under control for human exposure.

No means an unsafe level of contamination has been detected at the site and a reasonable expectation exists that people could be exposed.

Insufficient data means that, due to uncertainty regarding exposures, one cannot draw conclusions as to whether human exposures are controlled, typically because:

  1. Response to the contamination has not begun; or
  2. The response has begun, but it has not yet generated information sufficiently reliable to evaluate whether there are currently any unacceptable human exposure pathways at the site.
Groundwater Migration Under Control Insufficient Data Yes means EPA reviewed all information on known and reasonably expected groundwater contamination. EPA concluded the migration of contaminated groundwater is stabilized and there is no unacceptable discharge to surface water. EPA will conduct monitoring to confirm that affected groundwater remains in the original area of contamination.

No means EPA has reviewed all information on known and reasonably expected groundwater contamination, and the migration of contaminated groundwater is not stabilized.

Insufficient data means that due to uncertainty regarding contaminated groundwater migration, EPA cannot draw conclusions as to whether the migration of contaminated groundwater is stabilized.

Construction Complete No Yes means the physical construction of the cleanup is complete for the entire site.

No means either physical construction is not complete or actions are still needed to address contamination.

Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use No Yes means:

  1. All cleanup goals affecting current and reasonably anticipated future land uses of the entire site have been achieved, so there are no unacceptable risks;
  2. All required land-use restrictions or other controls have been put in place; and
  3. The site has achieved Construction Complete status.

No means that one or more of these three criteria have not been met. However, a site listed as no may still have redevelopment occurring on portions of the site and may be eligible for additional redevelopment.

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