- Associated Press - Saturday, June 7, 2014

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi Phosphates Corp. reported a second sulfuric acid release on Thursday amid residents’ intensifying worries about the health and environmental impacts of the fertilizer manufacturer.

Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Robbie Wilbur told The Mississippi Press (https://bit.ly/SDJaat) that the company notified state and federal authorities of the spill Thursday.

Madison-based Mississippi Phosphates, which employs about 220, makes sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid, which it uses to produce fertilizer.

On May 28, Mississippi Phosphates reported a release of acidic water. The company’s permit allows it to discharge water with a pH in the range of 6-9, roughly balanced between acidic and basic.

Residents near the plant have been complaining of odors, acid mists and other issues. Some organized a group called Cherokee Concerned Citizens to voice their concerns, which include other businesses besides Mississippi Phosphates.

“There seems to be a noticeable increase in reported incidents starting with the shut down last fall and numerous reports in the most recent months,” Pascagoula councilwoman at large Brenda Simkins said of the company.

“It feels like I am receiving a report every seven to 14 days, so one has to ask what the cumulative effect is even if each isolated incident is within regulatory guidelines,” she said. “I am extremely concerned for the impact to our citizens, the environment and our other industrial partners.”

Last August, MDEQ ordered the company to shut down its sulfuric acid plants due to reports of an acid mist. About the same time, MDEQ blamed the company for a fish kill in Bayou Casotte. The company was fined $25,000 in October for violating terms of an August order that barred it from starting its sulfuric acid plant when winds were blowing above 5 mph out of the south or west.

In 2011, MDEQ fined the company $297,000 for illegal air and water releases that occurred from 2008 to 2011.

In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the company to take immediate action after corrosive water was discovered outside a perimeter dike.

That order also directed Mississippi Phosphates to continue corrective actions included in a previous order from September 2009, when the EPA cited the company with leaks of sulfuric acid and untreated discharges from sulfuric acid plants to the adjacent bayou and leaks of phosphoric acid to unlined ditches.

Also in 2012, the plant experienced two fatalities in explosions that occurred within two weeks of each other. Those incidents claimed the lives of 39-year-old Jeffrey Simpson and 20-year old Jeremy Moore. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration later cited the plant with 40 safety and health violations related to the deaths.(backslash)

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Information from: The Mississippi Press, https://www.gulflive.com


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