Some Beaufort County residents demand greater oversight of jellyfish operations

08/30/2014 8:18 PM

08/30/2014 8:29 PM

Oversight of companies interested in commercial jellyfish operations might increase after three residents asked the chairman of the Beaufort County Council to ban such operations.

“Any time I hear a request from constituents, I’m going to consider it,” Chairman Paul Sommerville said. He did not name the constituents.

A company doing business under the names Millenarian Trading Co. and Carolina Jelly Balls wants to catch cannonball jellyfish, unload them at Golden Dock on St. Helena Island and process them at the former ArrMaz Custom Chemical site in Lobeco.

Residents have repeatedly raised concerns about potential environmental hazards from wastewater and odor.

Attempts Friday to reach Millenarian and Carolina Jelly Balls representative Steven Giese for comment were unsuccessful.

A proposed ordinance amendment will be introduced Thursday to the county Planning Commission to regulate the operations through zoning changes. If approved, any proposed operations would face multiple levels of review and approval.

The reviews would require scientific data, posed in laymen’s terms, stating the environmental impact of any jellyfish activities, according to Sommerville.

County attorney Josh Gruber is preparing to caution officials they could face a legal challenge if they try to restrict jellyfish operations.

“What I’m going to tell County Council is that if you are looking to impose this as a zoning restriction, then constitutionally, you need to state a rational basis for adoption,” he said. “... (You need) some rational reason why you are treating them different from other people.”

The jellyballs would be dehydrated in a mixture of alum and salt and shipped mostly to Asian markets, according to company representatives.

Operations began in March but were halted by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control last spring after the company was found catching and rinsing jellyfish at the Golden Dock site without permits.

DHEC officials said they wanted to do more testing before granting approval.

The agency also is reviewing toxicity data from tests at the Golden Dock site, DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley said. Those results were submitted Aug. 22 and will be used to determine whether the company will need a wastewater discharge permit.

County planning director Tony Criscitiello has written Jeff DeBessonet, permitting director for DHEC’s Bureau of Water, to request a report of the findings. Sommerville said the charts and raw data from the tests are essentially meaningless to those who do not have a scientific background.

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