Today’s Editorial May 06: A mounting disgrace

If you have an email account here in the Cayman Islands, chances are you’ve seen the photos that have circulated since last week.

They are photos taken by someone on a cruise ship from George Town Harbour showing Cayman’s only mountain, the landfill, in all its reeking, ugly glory.

The photos show the sheer immensity of the landfill as it dominates the landscape. It’s disturbing to see so much trash near places where people live and work and where children go to school and play.

Equally disturbing is the fact that this sight is probably one of the first things that 1.5 million and more cruise ship visitors see when they come to the Cayman Islands. In a word, it’s embarrassing.

For years now, successive governments have talked about the problem presented by the George Town landfill, but nothing has happened.

A 2002 study by a consultancy firm recommended a new landfill be constructed as soon as possible because the current one was nearing capacity. Seven years later, there are not even any concrete plans to address the landfill situation.

Shortly after taking office in 2005, Minister of Infrastructure Arden McLean announced that the dump had not reached crisis situation and by ‘reorganising’ the trash, the landfill had several more years left. What Mr. McLean did not explain was that Mount Trashmore, as he dubbed it, would continue to grow like a wart on the nose of the country.

The following year Mr. McLean promised that solutions to the landfill problem were on the horizon, saying the future of the country’s health and environment were at stake. ‘Grand Cayman’s capital is at risk,’ he told the Finance Committee. But nothing happened.

The following month, the Dart Group offered to trade another piece of land to the government for the George Town Landfill, which it would make into a grass-covered park, as has been done in other places in the world. A condition of the deal, however, was for the government to retain some of the liabilities and methane gas mitigation responsibilities. Mr. McLean thought the request was unreasonable and, in any case, did not want to move the landfill to another location on the Island. Instead, he wanted to create a waste-to-energy facility at the George Town site. So nothing happened.

The manager of the George Town landfill said in July 2006 that a waste-to-energy facility was at least four years away. Because nothing has happened to move such a facility forward since then, we can only assume a solution is still years away.

In the meantime, toxic chemicals from the landfill continue to leach into our ground water and into the North Sound. And Mount Trashmore continues to grow by the day, in what can only be considered a mounting national disgrace.