Hundreds question jellyfish processing plan

emoody@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 6, 2014 

Hundreds showed up with questions -- not all of which could be answered -- at a town hall meeting Thursday night about a proposed cannonball jellyfish processing company in Beaufort County.

The crowd packed the auditorium at the James J. Davis Elementary School in Dale for the presentation by Carolina Jelly Ball LLC, which plans to set up the operation just down the road at the former ArrMaz Custom Chemical site at 23 John Meeks Way, where toxic PCBs have been found.

Many of the questions focused on the quality of wastewater that would be discharged into surrounding waterways.

That discharge would be the byproduct of the process used to dehydrate jellyfish before they are shipped to Asian markets, where they are considered a delicacy.

"Until there is a discharge, you can't study it," said Bob Gross, an environmental engineering consultant for Carolina Jelly Balls and a former S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control official.

"You can predict it, and that's exactly what people have done," he said. "... After the fact you can study it very, very quickly ... but all the predicted equations tell you isn't going have an negative impact."

That wasn't enough for Beaufort County Councilman Gerald Dawson, who helped set up the meeting. He said Gross' comment "doesn't make me feel any better."

"I think the project itself has some unanswered questions, maybe with the environmental aspects," he said.

Other questions dealt with the economic impact, future plans, potential harmful effects on seafood in the area, effects on quality of life and guarantees for residents and local businesses if they are adversely affected.

While the processing site is undergoing the permitting process, Millenarian Trading Co., a sister company, is preparing a facility that would offload jellyfish at 27 Golden Dock Road on St. Helena.

Steven Giese, a spokesperson for both companies, said he felt Thursday's meeting went well.

"I think many people here ... were looking for a voice, someone to talk to," he said.

Along with presentations by Giese and Gross, Gilbert O'Neal, an environmental engineer from Charlottesville, Va., called in via cell phone. He made it clear that from a 1979 dye study and comparisons with EPA data, he believes waste water will be safely diluted so it will not endanger surrounding aquatic life.

However, a resident specifically asked about the PCBs stirred up at the drainage point.

O'Neal said he had not discussed PCB levels with the companies.

While Giese was pleased with the meeting, not all the attendees felt the same way.

Linda Myrick said none of her four submitted questions were read by the moderator.

"I feel like this was a set up all along," she said. "We're civilized people. Why can't we ask our questions ourselves?"

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