Jackson County

Shrimp hulls give Pascagoula temporary identity crisis, pause to think

Danny Williamson, left, and Slade White, with Mari Signum, gave up trying to convince Pascagoula City Council that cooking shrimp hulls to produce chitin won’t create unmanageable smells for neighbors.
Danny Williamson, left, and Slade White, with Mari Signum, gave up trying to convince Pascagoula City Council that cooking shrimp hulls to produce chitin won’t create unmanageable smells for neighbors. klnelson@sunherald.com

Pascagoula — known as an industrial city — had an identity crisis this week.

Or maybe it was just the words “shrimp hulls” that changed the City Council’s mind about allowing a new technology into its mostly industrial East Pascagoula.

Everyone on the Coast who has peeled shrimp at home knows you have to manage the hulls quickly and not let them sit in the kitchen trash for more than a day. That was clearly on the minds of the City Council on Tuesday night.

Mari Signum, a fairly new company with a patented technology for extracting chitin from shrimp shells, wanted to locate in East Pascagoula. The city Planning Commission had already listened to the pitch, asked a lot of questions about smell and how that would be managed, and passed the project on to the City Council with a nod of approval.

But at least two council members — right up front — on Tuesday were dead set against the company locating on Orchard Road or Ingalls Avenue within 1,000 feet or less of homes, churches and day cares. It was all about smell. The council voted down the project at both locations.

At the same time, members of the council asked the two representatives of the company to not leave without at least talking with the mayor about “maybe something else we can work out.”

“We are an industrial city with industry all around us. We have smells all around us. We’re not trying to be Ocean Springs,” Mayor Dane Maxwell said. “This project is north of $1 million and will bring 25 jobs.”

And it’s all out near Industrial Road, he pointed out.

Councilman George Wolverton named at least five fish-based industries already working in the area and noted they create smells. He said salaries from those companies have put children through college.

One problem was that there are no other facilities like this, using the extraction process proposed, for the city to go look at, to see if the claims that it manages smells are valid.

Councilman Scott Tipton said he didn’t like the use of phrases in the proposal like “in an effort to minimize odors” and “our goal is to not let material set overnight ...”

He said, that’s a lot of ifs.

Councilwoman at-large Jennifer Colmer was concerned about a nearby day care at one location and if smell might keep the children from playing outside.

The council asked City Attorney Ryan Frederic what the city’s recourse would be if the company located and then the smell became an issue. And he concluded, there may not be much they could do.

On their way out the door of City Hall, Slade White and Danny Williamson, with Mari Signum, insisted their processing method eliminates odors. They talked of vacuuming fumes, tight containers, filtering smells, exhaust for burners and washing down the plant after each run.

They also talked about a 10-foot by 30-foot pit outside the building that would be used in the process, but “covered.”

And they explained that the chitin they will extract from shrimp hulls will be used to make products that are antibacterial, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, antioxidant, nontoxic and hypoallergenic as listed on the company’s website.

They referred to the website that says the company is the only U.S.-based chitin production facility and produces premium, high molecular weight chitin that is developed into uses in wound care, cosmetics, textiles, beverages, pharmaceuticals and U.S. military bandages.

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