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Worker killed in second fatal explosion at Mississippi Phosphates

07 June 2012

A worker at the Mississippi Phosphates fertiliser facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi, was killed on June 1 in an explosion that left two other workers hospitalised, one with serious burns. Jeremy Moore, 20, was killed in a steam explosion at the plant, according to Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd.

The Mississippi Phosphates plant in Pascagoula
The Mississippi Phosphates plant in Pascagoula

"The incident was and is contained within the plant. The facility is stable, but out of caution, operations have ceased. There is no threat to employees or the public," the company said in a statement, adding that it was working with the authorities to pinpoint the cause.

On May 21, board operator Jeffrey Simpson, 39, was also killed in a steam explosion on the site. Company officials said a piece of equipment exploded and struck Simpson in the head during a maintenance procedure in a portion of the plant that was not operational at the time.

The plant has faced environmental scrutiny from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, mainly for allowing phosphoric acid to run off a gypsum stack during heavy rains. The acidic runoff was blamed in the past for poisoning coastal marshland in the Grand Bay National Reserve. The company and the EPA recently settled that dispute.

Madison-based Phosphate Holdings owns the 240-worker plant, which manufactures diammonium phosphate fertiliser.

Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) records show that in 2002, an explosion from a sulfuric acid tank led to three workers being hospitalised with chemical burns. Mississippi Phosphates was fined $1,500 by OSHA after that incident. The company was also fined $13,500 for nine violations of federal safety rules in 2004 and $5,000 for four violations of safety rules in 2009.

Michael D'Aquino, a spokesman for OSHA in Atlanta, said the investigation into the first explosion is ongoing and representatives were onsite on June 1 looking into the second explosion.

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