Mississippi rejects appeal to halt military storage project despite chemical contamination concerns

Published 12:54 pm Monday, April 26, 2021

Mississippi’s environmental quality department has rejected an appeal to halt a military storage development project despite fears it could cause chemical contamination in a predominantly Black community.

The department’s permit board on Friday rejected the appeal from residents, a neighborhood church and a nonprofit organization near the North Gulfport project site following testimony from the community stakeholders, as well as the Mississippi State Port Authority, which is overseeing the project, The Sun Herald reported.

The decision allows the port authority to move forward with storage on 16 acres (6 hectares) at the site of a former fertilizer plant that operated in the early 1900s. Soil containing dangerous levels of arsenic and lead there was buried beneath a clay cap in 2009, the newspaper said.

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The community groups appealed the permit in 2019, citing concerns that disturbing the land would allow arsenic and lead to leach into groundwater and run off into Turkey Creek. But Port Authority engineers said protective measures installed on the site have been monitored for years and show no sign of spread from the capped area.

Environmental quality officials and port authority engineers said it did not appear the project would disturb those contaminants. But experts who testified for the community countered that the port authority and the department lacked data to support their findings.
It was not immediately clear when construction would begin.