Jellyfish plant won't come to Gardens Corner over creek concerns

A jellyfish processing plant proposed for Gardens Corner will not be built there now because of concerns about potential environmental damage to a nearby creek.

Millenarian Trading Co. instead will try to find another place in northern Beaufort County to build the plant, which would process jellyfish brought into the docks in the town of Port Royal, according to company spokesman Steven Giese.

The change comes after Giese spoke with residents concerned that discharge from the plant might harm a tributary of Huspah Creek.

Millenarian wants to start an operation that would catch cannonball jellyfish and dehydrate them for export to Asian markets. The jellyfish would be collected at state-owned docks in Port Royal, then transported to a nearby location for processing.

Millenarian also wants to catch and process other types of seafood and expects to create 250 jobs in two years.

Among the residents wary of the company's plan was retired S.C. Department of Natural Resources biologist Sally Murphy, who lives in Sheldon.

Attempts to reach Murphy and other residents for comment were unsuccessful. However, Murphy last week forwarded to The Beaufort Gazette her email exchange with Fred Holland, retired director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hollings Marine Laboratory.

"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.

Holland said his figures were rough estimates and that the amount of discharge is "not a real issue" if the discharge went into a bigger creek.

Company officials are considering several lots on St. Helena Island and in the Beaufort area that are more suitable for seafood processing, Giese said.

Those locations have more direct access to the larger Port Royal and St. Helena sounds.

St. Helena Island has historically been home to shrimp and crab processing operations, he noted.

"The processes that we use aren't anything different than what's already been used," he said, adding that the majority of the water and waste is the same as would come from rinsing oysters or heading shrimp.

His biggest concern is the salinity level 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 said.

Some water also would be discharged when the jellyfish are rinsed at the Port Royal docks. That byproduct would be sent through a submerged pipe at the end of the dock, configured so the discharge is "jetted" toward the center of Battery Creek, according to the application filed with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley said the waste would contain shucked jellyfish parts and salty water used to process them. He added that the environmental impact of that discharge would need to be studied.

"This is a new process, but we look at wastewater to see what might impact water quality in the receiving stream," he said. "We would set limits to ensure stream uses are protected."

So far, it's been determined Millenarian Trading Co. would need a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit and a wastewater construction permit to operate, Beasley said.

Water would be filtered down to 25 microns to remove any large animal parts or debris, Giese said, noting that a window screen has holes the size of 1,000 microns.

Solid waste would either be removed by a disposal company or used as chum or for research, he said.

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Related content:

Trial run planned for jellyfish unloading at Port Royal shrimps docks, March 31, 2013

Seafood company wants to bring jellyfish industry to Port Royal, up to 250 jobs to region,March 6, 2013

Town of Port Royal, state enter uncharted waters with proposed jellyfish industry, March 16, 2013

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