A group of citizens organised in opposition to the proposed Bodden Town district landfill want to know why their area was picked for the new solid waste facility. Specifically, the Dart Group-owned site is between Bodden Town and Breakers, near two quarries and the Midland Acres subdivision.
“How was Midland Acres chosen as the site for a new dump, and where is the assessment of the consequences of the dump on the people of our district?” said Vincent Frederick, spokesman for the Coalition to Keep Bodden Town Dump Free.
The coalition also questions what happened to the waste-to-energy proposal to clean up the George Town Landfill while creating electricity. Bodden Town MLA Mark Scotland said previous strategies to address the landfill were simply not affordable.
“The dump is the most serious environmental issue facing our country today. Solutions have eluded successive governments primarily because of the cost,” he said.
Why Midland Acres
Denis Murphy of Apec Consulting Engineers, the firm contracted by Dart to identify an appropriate site for the new solid waste facility, outlined the site selection site process in an email.
The first stage operates by process of elimination, where areas considered unsuitable for waste management are identified. The excluded areas include populated/urban areas (according to government GIS data); areas not zoned as ‘industrial’ or ‘agricultural/residential’; areas nixed by the Cayman Islands Airport Authority due to potential impact on aircraft activities; and specific environmental areas, such as mangrove buffer, public open spaces and areas over fresh water lenses.
In the second stage of the process, other factors are taken into account to narrow down the selection of sites not excluded in the first stage. Those factors include proximity to adequate road infrastructure; site elevation and Hurricane Ivan flood data; proximity to coastline; average amount of precipitation; a suggested 500-metre buffer from water lenses; land cover, geotechnical and geological attributes; and the presence of National Trust sites, which cannot be sold.
“With this, we searched for sites of at least 150 acres in size. These sites were assessed to determine how many level 2 suitable attributes they featured. A shortlist of potential sites was established and Dart Realty Cayman Ltd made approaches to the various landowners to determine if the lands were available for sale. The proposed site was then purchased,” Mr. Murphy said.
Mr. Murphy said Dart’s site performed well for the following reasons: It is within a mile of Bodden Town Road and adjacent to the proposed East-West Arterial Extension; it is a mile away from the south coastline; it is not near a fresh water lens; while located in mixed mangrove, it is not swampy and has little peat; it neighbours two working quarries; of the sites not excluded in the first stage of elimination, it was among the closest to sources of waste generation.
Same song, different verse
The Apec study was not the first to identify Bodden Town district as the preferred location for a waste facility, said Walling Whittaker, owner of Malcolm Point Environmental Engineering and director of the Department of Environmental Health from 1988 to 2000.
While he was director, the department commissioned a study by PBS&J Corporation that looked at the current environmental conditions at the George Town Landfill, how much capacity was available at the landfill and alternative methods of waste disposal. The results were published in 1991.
“The report indicated that the George Town Landfill had five years’ remaining capacity,” Mr. Whittaker said.
Because of the report, the government began looking for alternative sites in Grand Cayman (and also in Cayman Brac for that Island’s waste).
The government’s approach was similar to the recent process used by Apec, in that potential areas were first eliminated as unsuitable, then narrowed down according to desirable attributes.
“By process of elimination, at the time the most favourable site identified was a site that was east of Bodden Town and north of Breakers,” he said.
“It’s interesting that 20 years later when Apec engineers used a similar evaluation and screening process, I am not surprised that the general area east of Bodden Town is also coming up as the preferred site,” Mr. Whittaker said.
He added that since the 1991 report (which was joined by a followup report by the department in 2003), quarrying has been developed in the area, further lending the site to industrial uses such as a solid waste facility.
The particular site identified by the 1991 study is about half a mile east of Dart’s site. At the time, the report was met with similar protests from Bodden Town residents, he said.
Mr. Whittaker said the George Town landfill has been in use for 40 years, double its initial design life of 20 years. “The current landfill is now 80 feet, and it was never intended to go that high,” he said.
He is confident that the George Town landfill can be closed and remediated successfully, noting that before the current landfill, Grand Cayman’s waste was dumped on the present-day George Town Cricket Oval.
“The people of this country can be proud of that site once it’s closed as well,” he said.