More than 100 attend DHEC bureaucracy meetings

sfretwell@thestate.comMarch 12, 2013 

The prospect of cutting government red tape drew more than 100 people to forums in South Carolina this week as the state Department of Health and Environmental Control works on its plan to make the agency more efficient.

Most were there to gather information before making formal written comments, but a handful of people also spoke at meetings in Greenville and Columbia.

Chester County resident Dave Cole said DHEC’s sludge dumping rules sometime clash with other agency regulations to protect food from contamination. He was upset about sewer sludge from Charlotte being discharged in an area where he plans a dairy farm.

“DHEC is a multi-headed hydra, and sometimes regulations and policy conflict with each other,’’ Cole said.

The handful of speakers at Tuesday’s meeting also raised questions about residential care rules and legislation that could affect midwives.

DHEC is looking at about 100 regulations and is gathering public information on which ones to cut or tweak before making a final report to Gov. Nikki Haley later this spring. The agency will take written comments through March 27. A third meeting is scheduled Wednesday in Charleston.

“Businesses and employers know better than DHEC the burden regulations place on them,’’ DHEC director Catherine Templeton said at Tuesday’s forum at agency headquarters in Columbia.

The agency’s review was initiated by Haley, who wants to chop government bureaucracy that slows down businesses. Environmentalists say the agency needs to be careful not to reduce rules that might hurt the air, water or land. Templeton said DHEC won’t do that.

DHEC, with more than 3,000 workers, is responsible for protecting public health and the environment. It has been criticized over the years for being too bureaucratic and slow to react on environmental and health issues.

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