The amount of toxic ash left after burning Hurricane Ivan debris is much less than originally expected, Minister for Communications, Works and Infrastructure Arden McLean said Friday at the Cabinet’s weekly press briefing.
Preliminary estimates suggested there were between 14,000 and 18,000 cubic yards of toxic ash containing arsenic, a by-product of burning pressure-treated wood, at the various debris burn sites on the island.
However, the results of a professional survey of the ash amount completed last week showed a considerable difference.
‘There is much, much less (ash) than originally thought,’ Mr. McLean said. ‘The amount is less than 5,000 cubic years.’
Tom Moffitt, one of the owners of debris clean-up company MC Restoration, said he thought the figure was even lower.
‘We understand it’s right at 4,000 cubic yards,’ he said.
Mr. Moffitt said he expected the survey to show much less contaminated ash than what had been reported.
‘It’s something our company knew about, but we needed to wait for verification from the government.’
During the Cabinet press briefing, Mr. McLean discounted a report in Cayman Net News last week that stated the bill for removing the ash was estimated at $5 million.
‘I don’t know where that figure came from.’ Mr. McLean said. ‘Our original allocation (for the ash clean-up) was for $1.7 million.’
Mr. McLean said the original allocation was based on the estimate of 14,000 to 18,000 cubic yards of contaminated ash, and that the cost is expected to go down now that the ash amount has gone down.
There were a number of factors which contributed to the higher initial estimates of the toxic ash amount, Mr. McLean said.
‘They found certain piles of ash that are not contaminated,’ he said.
‘There was also a lot of other debris still in some of the ash, and once that was put through a sieve, it reduced the ash significantly.’
Mr. McLean also denied the assertion in the 30 June edition of Cayman Net News that the bill for the ash clean-up is in dispute.
‘There is no dispute,’ he said. ‘We haven’t even discussed the matter with MC Restoration.’
Mr. McLean said he didn’t know if government would attempt to hold MC Restoration responsible for any part of the clean-up bill.
‘That is yet to be decided until after consultation with MC Restoration,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the government is creating the pit at the landfill where the contaminated ash will be stored, Mr. McLean said.
A polyurethane liner for the pit has been ordered to prevent the arsenic and other contaminates from leaching into the ground.
Mr. McLean said the pit is expected to be completed in the next two weeks.
‘Hopefully, we’ll have the ash removed in the six to eight weeks we told the public originally,’ he said.
MC Restoration’s Tom Moffitt indicated he was tiring of the unwarranted negative publicity.
‘All along, we’ve tried to do our part for the good of the island,’ he said. ‘Maybe people will start to realise I’m not the villain that some people are trying to say I am.’