A former diammonium phosphate fertilizer plant in Pascagoula is undergoing preparations in response to Tropical Storm Nate, which could move into the Gulf of Mexico by Saturday, according to a National Hurricane Center advisory released Thursday afternoon.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it is discharging about 40 million gallons of wastewater at the Mississippi Phosphates Corporation site in Pascagoula in preparation for the additional rainfall.
The intentional discharge, known as a bypass, will allow the agency to avoid exceeding storage capacity at the site.
The decision was based on uncertainty surrounding the landfall and potential increase of rainfall and storm surge from the storm. According to the EPA, more than 9 million additional gallons of contaminated water is generated at the site with every one inch of rainfall.
Three to five inches of rain are forecasted for the Pascagoula area, the agency said in its announcement Thursday. A hurricane and storm surge watch could be required for portions of the Northern Gulf Coast Thursday night or Friday morning.
“The discharged wastewater is partially treated and has no anticipated impacts to the environment,” the agency says. “The EPA will continue sampling and monitoring of Bayou Casotte.”
The agency is working with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and local officials on its Hurricane Response Plan, which also includes installing the hurricane storm surge gates.
Mississippi Phosphates Corporation is a former diammonium phosphate fertilizer plant that opened in the 1950s. The 1,080-acre facility closed in December 2014 under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, leaving behind more than 700 million gallons of low-pH, contaminated wastewater at the facility.
The EPA assumed temporary control of wastewater treatment operations at the site on Feb. 11, 2017 and will continue to do so until the facility is sold or cleaned up and closed. It is overseeing wastewater treatment at a rate of 2 million gallons per day, the agency says.
On Aug. 8, the EPA proposed the facility to the Superfund National Priorities List, a list of sites that require further investigation in order to protect human health and the environment.