Pressley’s issue shows need for public attention

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Just when Lancaster County residents thought the specter of
 trash mountains was laid to rest, at least for awhile, another reared its head in the middle of Indian Land.
A growing mountain of trash at Pressley’s Recycling Center Inc., was discovered in late October, after a very public battle over the proposed “Project December” landfill in southern Lancaster County and the fear that the Foxhole construction and demolition debris landfill just north of the state line would begin accepting household waste last year.
Indian Land residents Beverly Lynch and Jane Tanner discovered the 60-yard-long and several-stories-high heap of construction and demolition debris during a walk on Lynch’s family property. The trash heap was just over the property line between her family’s property and Pressley’s. The pile was visible from the URS Corp. building in Edgewater Business Park and from Possum Hollow Road during the winter.
According to what Pressley’s owner Ron Olsen told the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, the pile had been growing there since 2009.
So why did it take the combined efforts of local groups added to the complaints of Lynch, Tanner and Pressley’s neighbors before DHEC would even check up on the situation? Finally, after enough people complained, DHEC inspected the site in December and sent Olsen a compliance letter detailing “regulatory issues” at his recycling center.
Since then, Olsen has complied with most of DHEC’s requests. And it looks like he will get DHEC permits for everything he wants to do, which is pretty much everything he has been doing the last few years, including crushing concrete, even without permits.
But,  shouldn’t there be some repercussions for Olsen not following the letter of the law?
We understand it might be quicker and less expensive for DHEC to try to get businesses “back in compliance” rather than fight with them over fines, but what kind of message does it send when there seem to be no consequences for not following its regulations?
DHEC’s website says its mission is to “promote and protect the health of the public and the environment.”
We wonder about that. From DHEC officials’ recent comments at a public meeting on the Pressley’s issue, it seems like its real interest is in issuing permits, not correcting environmental problems or protecting the public’s health.
“They’re not supposed to be there to benefit business,” Lynch said. “They’re supposed to be benefiting the public and that’s what they should do.”
Several other local residents have echoed this sentiment, one that’s also been raised by other media outlets around the state since Gov. Nikki Haley packed the DHEC board with pro-business cronies.
We were glad DHEC finally held a meeting with concerned citizens, but dismayed that it chose to do so on the same night as an already scheduled public debate for the new District 7 County Council seat. We also wish Olsen would have been there to answer public concerns directly.
We’ve learned some valuable lessons from this incident. We, the public, are responsible for minding what goes on in our corner of the world. If we turn a blind eye to environmental transgressions, you can bet the government will, too. We all need to keep an eye out for these issues and report them promptly. To reach DHEC in Lancaster, call (803) 285-6901.
Here’s our advice for residents facing similar situations: Join forces to affect change. Complain loudly and often. Apparently, the squeaky wheel does get the grease.