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. Currently, wastewater treatment is occurring at a rate of approximately 2,000,000 gallons per day. These actions are being taken in coordination with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
MPC 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.
Since October 2015, the MPC Environmental Trust, under the direction of MDEQ, has owned and operated the phosphogypsum stack system (gypstack) and wastewater treatment systems at the former MPC facility. The MPC Environmental Trust was established in 2015 as part of the MPC bankruptcy proceedings.
The MPC Environmental Trust’s primary activities have been focused on the management, treatment, and discharge of impacted water at the Site which is generated solely through rainfall. Approximately $1,000,000 per month is required to maintain the facility due to the high volume of wastewater generated there that requires treatment (primarily precipitation and leachate). In January of 2017, the State of Mississippi added $500,000 from the State’s Pollution Emergency Fund to the MPC Environmental Trust, initially valued at approximately $12,000,000. These additional funds have since been exhausted, and the MPC Environmental Trust became insolvent on February 10, 2017.
Prior to bankruptcy, MPC manufactured diammonium phosphate fertilizer (DAP) from phosphate rock which it received from ocean bound vessels, and from sulphur, which was piped to its facility from a neighboring oil refinery. In its production of DAP fertilizer, MPC generated a variety of solid and hazardous wastes, substances and pollutants and was regulated under a number of federal and state environmental statutes.
In the fertilizer manufacturing process, strong acids and ammonia were produced and handled, which if improperly discharged, can be highly toxic to fish and to other forms of marine life. DAP production also yields large quantities of phosphogypsum that was disposed in a large on-site surface impoundment referred to as a gypstack. The phosphogypsum in the gypstack contains heavy metals and its leachate is acidic (low pH).
Since manufacturing ceased at MPC, EPA Region 4, the U.S. Department of Justice and MDEQ have worked with multiple parties to negotiate a sale of the property with the objective of allowing for beneficial reuse of the facility. The measures taken by EPA will maintain environmental stability at MPC while negotiations continue.
This article has been republished from materials provided by the EPA. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.