A company seeking to harvest and sell cannonball jellyfish will be up and running in northern Beaufort County by Feb. 22 -- with or without the permits it needs to process its catch at a vacant plant in Lobeco, a spokesman says.
Carolina Jelly Balls LCC intends to collect jellyfish at a dock on St. Helena Island's Jenkins Creek and ship them elsewhere for processing, possibly at a temporary warehouse, according to Steven Giese said.
The company wants to convert former ArrMaz Custom Chemical property into its processing plant but has not yet secured the permits it needs.
But Giese said the company has found the dock site it needs to collect the cannonball jellyfish, which would be dried and shipped mostly to Asian markets, where the food is considered a delicacy.
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The company on Monday signed a lease to use the existing commercial dock at 27 Golden Dock Road, near Eddings Point Landing, Giese said. The operation did not need county review because it is zoned and permitted for seafood unloading, he said.
A large, recently laid concrete slab and other renovations were visible at the site Tuesday.
Reaves Brother's Seafood, Fripp Point Seafood and other businesses have previously used the Golden Dock site for unloading seafood, according to signs on the building and business directory listings.
"It's no different than what's been down there for 40 years," Giese said.
However, county planning director Tony Criscitiello says he is miffed that the company did not contact the county before proceeding with its plans on St. Helena.
"If they're doing something, it is without consultation or comment from the county," Criscitiello said Tuesday. "... A conversation with us would be useful. Assuming something often leads to problems because the assumptions aren't correct."
Giese said the dock operation has a Beaufort County business license for the dock and a wholesale seafood distribution license from the state. Both licenses are under Millenarian Trading Co., he said, which is the same name the company used when it attempted to operate in Port Royal last year.
A discharge permit for the site has been applied for with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, according to spokesman Jim Beasley. However, that application will be considered after a decision is made on a permit for discharge at the processing site. No time frame was provided Tuesday.
Carolina Jelly Balls wants to use the site of the former ArrMaz Custom Chemical property at 23 John Meeks Way, where a number of chemical plants have operated and toxic PCBs have been found. Giese said none of the contaminated parts of the property will be used.
The jellyfish would be dehydrated with a process that involves soaking in a solution of salt and alum. The byproduct would be discharged into Campbell Creek.
Some who live or work near the proposed processing site are concerned the discharge will smell bad and degrade water quality.
The state is also doing a "coastal consistency certification review," which considers the environmental balance of the area, for both sites and permits, Beasley said.
To operate at the site, Carolina Jelly Balls would need to have the property rezoned, but county officials have said that won't happen until more is learned about the operation's impact on traffic, the environment and other factors.
However, that won't delay the launch of the company's operations, Giese said Tuesday.
Carolina Jelly Balls is considering a list of six warehouses in multiple counties for temporary, small-scale processing of the jellyfish. The sites are within a 45-minute drive from the Lobeco property, Giese said.
No permits would be needed, as long as zoning is appropriate, because all wastewater would be trucked out to a treatment facility, he said. All that is needed will be a business license, and inspection and approval by the S.C. Department of Agriculture.
"The delays with the main Lobeco site are really hurting a lot of people," he said, referring to potential employees, fishers and operation stakeholders.
The temporary operation would cost Carolina Jelly Balls "hundreds of thousands of dollars," Giese said, but is necessary to help support the economy of the community.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.