Locals to clear hurricane debris

Local businesses will conduct future debris clearance and processing operations after hurricanes or other bad storms under a new Government policy outlined in the 2006 National Hurricane Plan.

George Town landfill

Mounds of trash were piled up at the George Town landfill following Hurricane Ivan. A new plan would ensure quicker response time to debris removal following a disaster.
Photo: Carol Winker

After Hurricane Ivan, a foreign-based company, MC Restoration, was given the US$10.7 million debris clearing and processing contract. The contract was harshly criticised by local heavy equipment operators who said they could have done the job themselves.

When unveiling the new Hurricane Plan to the media, National Hurricane Committee Chairman Donovan Ebanks said the clearing of roads and disposing of debris would be resourced though local entities.

The plan itself states that it is a policy decision of the Cayman Islands Government ‘to further develop the capability of public and private resources to manage debris clearance, processing and cleanup operations with resources available on the Islands through pre-disaster planning and the development of agreements/contracts’.

However, the plan also allows contractors to hire foreign entities themselves, as opposed to having the foreign entity hired directly by the government, as was the case with MC Restoration.

‘A provision of the agreements with Islands’ businesses is that they will be allowed to create subcontracts with external organisation in the event that local resources are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster.’

The primary responsibility for collection and separation of disaster related debris, however, will fall to the Department of Environmental Health, the plan states.

An Initial Clearance and Debris Management sub-committee of the National Hurricane Committee has been formed and is chaired by Roydell Carter, the director of the Department of Environmental Health.

Deputy chairmen of the sub-committee include DoEH Assistant Director Sean McGinn and National Roads Authority Managing Director Colford Scott.

Mr. Carter said there were still some legal points to be worked out with the pre-contracts for local heavy equipment operators. However, he noted that the pre-contracts would be ‘broader initial agreements that would get the local guys started’.

The granting of a long-term debris removal and processing contract would probably fall under the responsibility of the Cayman Islands Recovery Operations manager who would take over the long-term management of the disaster clean-up operations under the guidelines of the National Hurricane Plan.

Another aspect of the new Hurricane Plan is for temporary debris storage sites to be pre-identified.

‘We want to identify the sites well ahead,’ Mr. Carter said, noting that the sites would be on a mixture of government and private land.

The Hurricane Plan calls for six- to nine-month rental contracts to be signed on pre-identified private properties to be used as temporary storage sites. Mr. Carter said there has been a delay in getting those contracts signed this year.

‘It’s something we’re trying to get sorted out,’ he said.

‘We have a list of various sites, but we have to run them by the Water Authority and the Department of Environment first, so that an environmental assessment can be done.’

Mr. Carter said that different sites will be used for different types of debris to avoid mixing the debris. For instance, he said one site might be used for hazardous materials, one site for metals and derelict vehicles and one site for vegetation.

It is anticipated that much of the processing of disaster debris in the future will be done by the DoEH, which has acquired a several pieces of equipment to do the job.

‘We have a portable air curtain incinerator, which can be moved from site to site,’ Mr. Carter said, adding that the DoEH also now has a tub grinder which can create mulch from vegetation.

The new equipment will allow the DoEH to promptly start the processing of debris after a disaster, unlike after Hurricane Ivan when it took almost two months to start the process.

‘We’ll be able to start right away,’ Mr. Carter said.

The DoEH will also eventually be able to deal with the disposal of vehicles.

‘We have a car crusher on order,’ he said. ‘The situation in New Orleans [after Hurricane Katrina] slowed things down. We’re now looking at August or September [for getting the car crusher].’

There are still many cars at the landfill from Hurricane Ivan and before.

‘We’re trying to get the existing cars and metal off the island very soon,’ Mr. Carter said, adding that the government is looking for a buyer for the materials.

Mr. Carter said he had confidence in his personnel at the DoEH to handle their new responsibilities. He praised his staff’s response after Hurricane Ivan.

‘I was very surprised how quickly our people came out, no matter what they lost,’ he said. ‘I must say they came out without any hesitation.’

Unlike many other government departments, the DoEH was not crippled by the loss of many of its vehicles during Hurricane Ivan.

‘We were one of the few departments that secured our vehicles on the Linford Pierson Highway,’ he said.

Commenting on the fact that space to park on the Linford Pierson Highway will be in short supply now that everyone else knows it is high ground, Mr. Carter said he did have an alternative parking option.

‘We could always use the landfill,’ he said. ‘We’ve got sufficient height there.’

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now