A proposed jellyfish processing plant in northern Beaufort County demands scrutiny by environmental regulators and the public.
Carolina Jelly Balls LLC has applied for permits to process jellyfish for human consumption at a former chemical plant where highly toxic PCBs have been found.
The proposal for the plant in the Dale area calls for discharging about 250,000 gallons of wastewater per day into Campbell Creek, which leads into the Whale Branch and Coosaw rivers.
High-salinity water mixed with 2 percent alum -- which makes water saltier -- is to be used to dehydrate the jellyfish, turning them into a dried, jerk-like product sold for consumption, mostly in Asia.
That amount of discharge concerns a local oysterman, for good reason. It should concern us all.
And for the processing company to say it wants to be up and running in early 2014 only magnifies that concern. The company is represented by the same man who got the cold shoulder in the town of Port Royal last year when past financial concerns were aired.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control is reviewing the wastewater application, with one of its former top employees serving as the applicant's liaison to environmental-protection agencies.
The public needs to pay attention and demand a public hearing. At this point, the application is under review by DHEC. When it is posted for public review, it will require requests from 20 individuals or one elected official to get a public hearing.
The public needs that hearing to get answers. Where will the water come from? What would be the impact of discharging that much water in terms of erosion or water salinity levels? How would the wastewater be treated?
What about the traffic produced by a plant that would process 200,000 to 250,000 pounds of jellyfish per week? The question of the smell must also be addressed.
Officials must not treat this solely as an economic development issue. Jobs created and construction contracts should have no bearing on the fundamental issue of protecting natural resources.
Neither should comparisons be made to the days when treated organic chemical wastewater was dumped into Campbell Creek. This proposal must stand on its own merits when gauging its environmental impact.
At this point, the public needs a lot more information and input.