Community meeting on plant a good first step

info@islandpacket.comJanuary 29, 2014 

In this file photo, a bin of iced down cannonball jellyfish await transport to the processing facility during a demonstration at the Port Royal Shrimp Dock.

JAY KARR — Jay Karr Buy Photo

Beaufort County Councilman Gerald Dawson is to be commended for organizing a community meeting on a proposed jellyfish processing plant in Seabrook.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at James J. Davis Elementary School, 364 Keans Neck Road, Dale.

The jellyfish plant proposal has drawn a great deal of concern since it was recently announced as something that could come online early this year.

The public needs a lot of questions answered, and the community meeting should help.

But everyone must beware that this issue deserves more than a "dog-and-pony" show by vested parties. The public must also have a third-party, scientific review of what is proposed, and a full public explanation of that, with the opportunity for input before permits are issued.

Key concerns are the proposed use of 250,000 gallons of water per day, and the disposal of wastewater.

The public needs facts from a third party on both these concerns. What does it do, if anything, to the region when that much water is pulled from the ground? How does that compare to amounts of water used for agriculture? What could it mean, if anything, to saltwater intrusion into the aquifer?

How will the water be treated prior to its discharge into Campbell Creek? Also of concern is the amount of wastewater to be discharged. What impacts would that have on the environment?

And no matter what is agreed to in a permit, a big question remains: Who will guarantee that the permit is being adhered to, and what will happen if it is not? What system would be in place for a third party to monitor this plant?

Last week, the proposed plant came into the public eye when the Beaufort County Development Review Team examined its plans. The review team delayed a decision on whether to recommend that the county's Zoning Board of Appeals approve the project, based on a long list of permits and site plans the proponents need to provide. The list includes a long-term traffic analysis for the plant and a detailed community impact statement.

These are the types of things the community needs to see in writing, and have plenty of time to review and comment on before this plant is approved.

The community meeting organized by Gerald Dawson is a good, early step, but more digging will be necessary. The public ultimately needs to hear, from someone other than the plant proponents, what this plant would mean to the community and the environment.

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