Calling the George Town dump site an “eyesore and
environmental cyst”, WISE, which stands
for Waste Initiatives and Sustainable Environments, is sharing its vision for
the future of Cayman’s waste management that would make the 70-acre George Town
dump a thing of the past.
WISE has organised a series of public meetings and has
launched an informational website as a way of sharing information about the
waste management options for Cayman.
At the lobby group’s public meeting on 22 September,
attendees learned that more than 14,000 people live within a two-mile radius of
the dump, an area which also contains approximately 1,600 hotel rooms.
“We want government to consider a comprehensive solid
waste management strategy,” said WISE committee member Theresa Leacock-Broderick.
She explained that WISE is not a group of experts but rather a group of
community minded citizens made up of representatives from a broad spectrum of
“We are not proposing to move the dump, we are looking
for a much larger solution,” she said.
Grand Cayman’s dump first came into use in 1983. At its
highest point, the pile of trash reaches 80 feet above sea level and is clearly
visible from cruise ships, the airport and the Esterly Tibbets bypass. The site
consists of a north garbage mound which contains about 1 million cubic yards of
waste, and a south mound of about 350,000 cubic yards of waste, along with
storage and staging areas for scrap metal, tyres, aluminium and various other
WISE committee member Pilar Bush said her personal
interest in Cayman’s trash situation was peaked after her firm, AtWater
Consulting, conducted research in March and April on public attitudes and
knowledge about the dump. The concerns raised included aesthetics, odour, air
and water pollution, natural disasters and health hazards.
Government’s current plan for the dump’s future keep
Grand Cayman’s waste management operations at the present location, adding the
construction of a waste-to-energy facility that would sell electricity to CUC.
The electricity would be generated using fresh trash and mined trash from the
existing dumps over a period of about 20 years.
WISE has been lobbying for a revised Request for
Proposals for the project, in hopes the new wording does not restrict options
to waste-to-energy, and does not restrict operations to the existing site. “If that happens, we would call that
progress,” said Ms Leacock-Broderick.
The group argues
that since the waste-to-energy plant would require a reliable source of waste
for at least two decades, the current plan will inhibit for decades practices
implemented around the world like waste prevention, minimization and reuse.
Such practices lie on a pyramid of best waste-management practices developed by
the US Environmental Protection Agency and used as a template the world over.
Disposal (or dumping), which is Cayman’s method of dealing with its waste, lies
at the very bottom. Energy recovery (waste-to-energy) is only the next step
up. WISE says the total cost over 20
years for Government’s proposed plan would be around $600 million. Currently,
waste processing costs Government about $97 per ton, but if a waste-to-energy
plant is built, WISE estimates the cost will increase to $250 per ton.
WISE is also concerned about rainwater that flushes
contaminants from the dump site into nearby water bodies and into the ground.
This contaminated water, called leachate, has been identified by the Water
Authority and the Department of Environment as likely causes for massive algal
blooms in the North Sound.
Citing research conducted for WISE by Apec consulting
engineers, the group supports capping and
remediating the current site, at an estimated cost of about $20 million.
WISE also says mining the existing 27-year-old mound of
waste would create health and environmental hazards beyond those that exist
today, and would allow leaching into North Sound to continue for the entire
time the mining is under way.
“If we cap the dump, within 2-3 years we will prevent 95
per cent of the leachate from escaping,” said Ms Bush. She noted the government
had expressed concerns about capping the dump as is contents may be hazardous.
However, the group argues that mining would expose workers, and the Island as a
whole, to those hazards for over 20 years, and create more odour and likely
worsen the leaching.
To cap the site, all that would be required would be a
site assessment, installation of methane and runoff collection systems, and
installation of an impermeable cap topped off by soil and sod. Soil and
groundwater would be monitored for 20 to 30 years. The area could then be
landscaped for a variety of public recreational uses.
With the closing and capping of the current dump, another
way to manage waste would need to be devised.
The group hopes the Government’s Request for Proposals
will attract innovative and state-of-the-art ideas, with the main objective
being that the kind of dump that exists in Cayman today will never be
recreated. The group supports, among
many ideas, the construction of a waste recovery and management facility on a
different site to provide a new way to manage Cayman’s waste. Among its main features, the facility would
house properly engineered and lined landfill cells for non-burnable waste, an
indoor recycling centre for plastics, yard waste, glass, aluminium, paper and
metals, and a compost facility for organic materials, yard waste, cardboard and
Collection centres could be placed around Grand Cayman
for residents to drop off their waste, which could then be transported to the
According to WISE member Walling Whittaker, an eco-park
would cost about $60 million to build and could be operational within 24 months
from start of construction.
If all operations were to be located at a central site,
it would need to cover 150 to 200 acres, which means the current site is too
For more information
and the opportunity to contribute ideas, visit www.wise.ky