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Administrator Pruitt Signs $107.6M Action Memorandum to Clean Up the Mississippi Phosphates Corporation Superfund Site

04/18/2018
Contact Information: 
Davina Marraccini (marraccini.davina@epa.gov)
(404) 562-8293 (Direct)

WASHINGTON (April 18, 2018) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt signed an Action Memorandum for $107.6 million accelerating the cleanup of the former Mississippi Phosphates Corporation (MPC) Site in Pascagoula, Miss. In just over a year of taking action on the site to manage emergency wastewater treatment operations, Administrator Pruitt and the Agency signed an Action Memorandum to begin cleanup in July 2018. 

EPA formally added the MPC Site to the Superfund National Priorities List and proposed a cleanup plan for portions of the MPC Site in January 2018. The Action Memorandum signed today selects a $71.6 million cleanup that will take place from 2018 through 2020, plus $36 million for ongoing wastewater treatment during the three-year cleanup period. 

“In just over a year, EPA has taken multiple important actions to accelerate the remediation of the Mississippi Phosphates Superfund Site,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “This memo reflects my commitment to addressing Superfund sites as quickly and safely as possible to ensure human health and economic activity in the surrounding areas are fully protected.”  

"Advancing the cleanup of the MPC Superfund will protect Bayou Casotte, Tillman Creek, Bangs Lake, and the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve,” said EPA Regional Administrator Trey Glenn. “These waters are some of the most productive nurseries for aquatic species on the Gulf Coast, and surrounding residents rely on them for fishing and recreation.”

“Mississippi could not be more pleased with EPA’s approach to expedite the cleanup of the MPC Site,” said Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant. “Under Administrator Pruitt’s leadership, EPA has moved quickly to bring federal resources to bear after the facility went bankrupt and the state exhausted available funds.”

“The action plan announced today is positive news for the people of Pascagoula and for the protection of our waterways for fishing and recreation,” said Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS). “I commend EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for prioritizing the Superfund Program, which makes these projects possible. Pascagoula Mayor Dane Maxwell and I have worked hard to advocate for the cleanup of this site. As a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, I look forward to continuing my work with the Administration to safeguard our environment and to support economic growth in Mississippi.”

“Pascagoula has lived with this catastrophic issue for years with no response," said Pascagoula, Miss. Mayor Dane Maxwell. "Since President Trump took office and under Administrator Pruitt not only have we had a response, but it has been from the highest levels. Making Mississippi Phosphates cleanup a priority is very important for the entire Gulf Coast. We can't tell you how much our citizens and the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast appreciate it. I'm very excited to see the process beginning to definitively address and resolve this serious issue."

“We have been working toward today’s announcement for years now," said Congressman Steven Palazzo (MS-04). "When MS Phosphates ceased operations in December 2014, they left more than 7 million gallons of contaminated wastewater stored at the facility, leaving our state agencies and our communities to not only foot the bill, but also deal with the environmental consequences that ensued. Now, under the leadership of our new Administration, including the EPA and Administrator Pruitt, we have finally received swift and necessary action to remove these hazardous materials. I look forward to our continued partnership as we work to ensure a speedy clean up.”

The cleanup plan identified in the Action Memorandum focuses on the closure of the East Gypsum Stack and the North Ponds at the West Gypsum Stack. The cleanup will eliminate storage of more than 500 million gallons of contaminated water on site and reduce the volume of water requiring treatment by an estimated 98 percent. 

Design of the closure system is underway. EPA is evaluating the possible use of local dredge spoil to cap and close the East Gypsum Stack. In response to comments received during the public comment period, EPA is also evaluating the use of engineered geosynthetic turf products as an alternative cap/cover system in its design. 

BACKGROUND

The MPC Site 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 acidic, nutrient-rich wastewater stored at the facility. EPA assumed control of wastewater treatment operations at the former MPC fertilizer facility once the MPC Environmental Trust, which owns the property, ran out of funds in February 2017. 

The wastewater—if improperly discharged—may be toxic to fish and other forms of marine life, and can also cause algal blooms. Previous releases of untreated wastewater from the Site (before EPA took over wastewater treatment operations) resulted in fish kills.

EPA currently oversees wastewater treatment at a rate of approximately 2-4 million gallons per day—at a cost of over $1 million per month—due to the high volume of wastewater requiring treatment. EPA has expended approximately $17 million to treat wastewater at the Site.

Under Administrator Pruitt’s leadership, the Superfund program has reemerged as a top priority to advance the Agency’s core mission of protecting human health and the environment. The MPC Site was included on the inaugural Administrator’s Emphasis List of Superfund sites targeted for immediate and intense attention and remains on the latest Administrator’s Emphasis List updated on April 16, 2018.

For more information, visit the EPA website: www.epa.gov/superfund/ms-phosphates-corp 

Superfund Task Force. In May 2017 Administrator Scott Pruitt established a task force to restore EPA's Superfund program to its rightful place at the center of the Agency's core mission to protect health and the environment. Click here to learn more.