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Pascagoula Fertilizer Plant Fixing Environmental Violations

By Rhonda Miller | Published 22 Feb 2012 05:56pm | comments
Richard Johnson is Vice President of Operations at Mississippi Phosphates Corp. in Pascagoula.

A fertilizer plant in Pascagoula is correcting a series of environmental violations.  MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports the infractions involve groundwater.

"When EPA came in, they drilled several of their own wells and discovered low pH water."

With tanker trucks coming and going at Mississippi Phosphates Corp. in Pascagoula, Vice President of Operations Richard Johnson points out sites where EPA violations were found.

"The perimeter dike on the closed gypsum stack."

That’s a section of the property where there’s gypsum, a by-product of fertilizer production.  It’s surrounded by a dike. The first sign of the problem was some of the vegetation turned brown because it was, basically, over-fertilized. The company investigated and found low pH, or acidic, water.

"They're active seep areas, and they're coming from the water that comes out of the gyp-stack."

The company reported the seeping of corrosive, or acidic, water to EPA and that’s the subject of the recent violation. Mississippi Phosphates made an intermediate fix by building agricultural lime berms to neutralize the water. The long-term solution is to add new wells.

This is the most recent of several EPA violations. In 2009, Mississippi Phosphates was cited for uncontrolled leaks and spills of sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid. Johnson said the problem then was a broken underground pipe. The company fixed it and took every precaution so it wouldn’t become a public health issue.

"We have our own potable water system here that we drink from, that we run according to Mississippi State Department of Health. And so there’s never been any measurements of contamination of that water. We’re talking about groundwater. So there’s a very big distinction there, about is it drinking water, is it groundwater. (So for the public?) There’s no concern, because first of all, it didn't get off site."

Mississippi Phosphates and EPA have agreed on how to fix the violations and that agreement was approved by the court last week.   

EPA spokeswoman Dawn Harris-Young said there’s no immediate threat to public health.

"I’m not aware of any immediate concern. Because that might be different if these things weren’t being taken care of, or these actions weren’t taking place."

Harris-Young said the concerns will continue to be monitored by the EPA and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

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Richard Johnson is Vice President of Operations at Mississippi Phosphates Corp. in Pascagoula.


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