Bodden Town MLAs sought last week to balance voters’ concerns with the ruling government’s push for a new waste management facility in the Midland Acres area.
United Democratic Party representatives Dwayne Seymour and Mark Scotland have taken political heat in recent months after supporting their party’s plans to cap and remediate the George Town landfill and place a new waste management operation east of Bodden Town.
“I haven’t said much on the subject of the proposed waste management facility in Bodden Town,” Mr. Seymour told a crowd of on-lookers during a public meeting in Bodden Town on Thursday night. “However, I can assure you that my silence does not (mean) automatic consent.”
Mr. Seymour, serving his first term in the Legislative Assembly, said he did agree the current George Town landfill was a “disaster” that needed to be addressed.
“I will not support a solution unless it is in the best interests of the people of Bodden Town and the best interests of the Cayman Islands,” he said.
The remediation of the George Town landfill, located next to the Camana Bay development, is part of a massive land swap proposal between the government and the Dart group of companies which has gone under the banner of the ForCayman Investment Alliance. The full agreement has not been finalised, however, the UDP has announced the site near Midland Acres as the location for the landfill facility, if the deal is approved.
Health Minister Mark Scotland told those who attended last Thursday’s meeting not to simply have an “emotional response” to the Midland Acres waste management plan, but to take time and review the proposal. Mr. Scotland said a previous study done on the current George Town landfill indicated it was simply not financially feasible to create a waste-to-energy facility at the George Town site.
“A study that the PPM did for the waste management facility … said they would need to raise fees and taxes on our people by an additional $18 million to $23 million a year to be able to pay for that facility (in George Town),” he said. “To do that, you’d have to raise import duties to over 30 per cent. Can we afford that now, ladies and gentlemen?”
As Minister Scotland approached the stage earlier in the evening, a group of protesters who gathered at the back of the parking lot where the meeting was being held chanted: “No dump in Bodden Town, no dump in Bodden Town.”
“I agree,” Mr. Scotland said.
He later went on to explain that comment: “No one is moving any dump to Bodden Town. We are going to keep Bodden Town dump free. A waste management facility, for all those who want to know, is not a dump. The wannabe politicians need to stop misleading the public.”
Minister Scotland said a technical and environmental review would be done and must show that the landfill is in the best interest of Bodden Town residents before he would support the project.
“But I’m not going to be deterred by the politicking that’s going on,” he said.
Protesters in good voice
A group of Bodden Town citizens opposed to government’s proposal to establish a waste management facility attended Thursday’s meeting holding signs that read ‘don’t dump on Bodden Town’ and ‘call it whatever you want, it’s a dump and it stinks’.
The protesters – who initially said they were not going to speak – chanted various slogans while members of the United Democratic Party spoke at the podium.
UDP member Ellio Solomon played up to the crowd and riled up a substantial number of the political group’s own supporters who attended the event. Mr. Solomon accused opposition People’s Progressive Movement members of ‘poking holes’ in the good ship Cayman.
“One of the same persons that poked a hole in that boat is out there holding a sign up now,” Mr. Solomon said. At one point, Mr. Seymour broke into song about former University College of the Cayman Islands President Hassan Syed while speaking at the podium. Mr. Seymour told meeting attendees they should get all the facts about the proposal prior to protesting.
“There has been massive speculation by onlookers … and people who have jumped to a conclusion that is truly not there,” Mr. Seymour said. “When elephants fight, it is only the grass that suffers.”
At this point, someone from the crowd shouted to Mr. Seymour: “Sit down, you don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Another attendee yelled from the back of the parking lot, calling Minister Scotland a “sell out” later in the evening.
Premier McKeeva Bush – speaking for more than an hour at the end of the meeting – said the proposed waste management facility in Midland Acres would eventually include waste-to-energy and recycling aspects. He said some new legislation would have to be created to implement new methods of waste management. He also said site visits organised by government to US waste management facilities would be made later this year to educate local residents about the capabilities of those operations.
“This matter is so important that we want to make sure that residents of Bodden Town and other concerned citizens can see modern and properly designed waste management facilities,” Mr. Bush said.