Plant concerns prompt encouraging response

info@islandpacket.comApril 19, 2013 

Good for the people who raised serious concerns about wastewater discharge from a proposed jellyfish-processing plant in Gardens Corner.

Millenarian Trading Co. now will turn its attention to finding another place in northern Beaufort County to build the plant, which would process jellyfish brought into the docks in the town of Port Royal, said company spokesman Steven Giese.

This is not the death knell of the project. Millenarian, which also wants to catch and process other types of seafood, thinks it can bring 250 jobs to the area within two years. St. Helena Island, which has historically been home to shrimp and crab processing operations, might give the company a more hospitable welcome as a result, Giese notes.

And perhaps it will. But more important than putting the operation near a receptive populace is putting it where discharge into local waterways won't cause harm.

Fred Holland, retired director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hollings Marine Laboratory, addressed concerns by Sheldon resident and former S.C. Department of Natural Resources biologist Sally Murphy in a recent email. In it, he explained why pumping wastewater into a tributary the size of the relatively small Huspah Creek might be a bad idea.

"In summary, it makes little sense to add a 10,000 to 20,000 (gallons per day) discharge on a small creek," particularly if the discharge contains organic matter that could deplete oxygen from the water, Holland wrote.

He stressed that his figures were rough estimates and that the amount of discharge is "not a real issue" if it is sent into a bigger creek.

That's not to say all of St. Helena Island is compatible with such an operation.

Indeed, Giese says his biggest concern is the salinity of the water used to process the jellyfish. A small amount of alum is used, and that makes the water saltier, Giese said. Water would be treated and diluted before disposal so it is comparable to the environment it is entering, he maintains.

It is encouraging that Millenarian considered the concerns of Sheldon residents and dropped plans for a Gardens Corner plant. So are the company's own concerns about salinity levels.

Science is the scale to use to weigh these issues. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is just starting its permitting process, and it should proceed with care. Regulators and Millenarian must accurately describe what happens with the waste -- both solid and liquid -- and account for ongoing monitoring if the plant or dock operation is to be approved.

The public should stay vigilant.

Northern Beaufort County could use 250 jobs, but not at the expense of waterways that underpin its seafood, real estate, recreation and tourism industries.

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service