Dump plans inflame residents

I found the March 16th viewpoint of Mr. Frank McField as insulting as it was misinformed and naive. Bodden Town voters did not need Mr. Alden McLaughlin to be “inflamed” by Government’s proposed relocation of Grand Cayman’s dump to our district. We were in fact inflamed following a meeting with Dart representatives who we invited to speak to us, well before Mr. McLaughlin expressed any opinion. About two dozen ordinary Bodden Town residents, with no political affiliation, assembled on October 24th to listen to Mr. Ken Hydes, Mr. Martin Edelenbos and Ms Joanne Gammage. Our initial concern was the acute problem of heavy truck traffic through our town, and the certain aggravation of that problem by putting the Island’s dump in Midland Acres.

After listening to the Dart presentation, and their answers to our queries, we decided to vigorously oppose the project and to form the Coalition to Keep BT Dump Free.

Mr. McField’s attempt to trivialise our concern and our campaign into some sort of PPM “vote-getting scheme” is outrageous. As per our response to the UDP’s claim at their March 8th Bodden Town Post Office rally that the Coalition is “controlled by the PPM”, we responded that this was nothing but a smokescreen to avoid responding to Coalition objections.

Non-political

The Coalition supports no political party and has equally condemned past and present governments for neglecting their responsibility in regards to proper management of the George Town landfill and the elimination of Mount Trashmore.

As to Mr. McField’s praise for Dart, we are not taking away any credit which Dart may deserve. But, let’s not be naïve. Many of our supporters did until recently admire the Island’s biggest real estate developer. They knew of course that Dart is a private company, driven by profit, and that anything they did was in their interest, whether immediately or ultimately, directly or indirectly.

But, back to the issue of the George Town landfill and its relocation. After all, we can’t fault Dart if government inexplicably reneged on its deal with Wheelabrator to build a waste-to-energy facility on the present site, the proposal recommended by the Central Tenders Committee and the solution supported by virtually all experts. We can however reasonably question the proposal submitted by Dart’s construction company Decco, and its concern for our environment. Relocating the dump to Midland Acres would involve rezoning the area. We can fault Dart and question their priorities for proposing to transform a pristine residential/agricultural area to heavy industrial use. In any case, the CTC rejected it, rating it worst of all proposals considered for solving the GT dump problem, after its technical team expressed “great concern” about the impact of a dump in an “environmentally sensitive” area. And, we can’t fault a “good corporate citizen” like Dart if government then ignored the CTC and due process and ran with the Dart proposal of putting the dump in Bodden Town. We can however question how Dart intends to approach the rezoning of the proposed dump site.

Mr. McField is grossly misinformed, and uncritically swayed by the “spin” of a well-oiled and well-funded PR machine in declaring that the plan for Midland Acres is ”a more ecologically conscious waste management facility” and an “environmentally manageable waste disposal site”. This flies in the face of what we heard from Dart’s own representatives, and from Mr. Sam Small, a civil engineer with experience at the GT landfill.

Other experts dismiss the significance of even the liner, suggesting that the acid from a single miss-sorted and overturned car battery is all it takes to pierce the liner, and begin the process of contaminating the central wetlands.

In Mr. Small’s opinion, building another landfill site in Cayman is a crazy idea, especially as it is miles from the source of the waste.

Unanswered requests

Numerous requests from the Coalition to see the projected operating budget of the proposed facility, and the source of funding, remain unanswered. Is Mr. McField perhaps privy to such information, or does he simply have blind faith in the same people who have mismanaged the GT landfill since 1983? Has Mr. McField seen anything more than the meaningless artist’s conceptual drawing of the proposed site that the FCA has been peddling? Our numerous requests for technical drawings and specifications have also gone unanswered.

Mr. McField doesn’t feel that Bodden Town residents ”…should be able to say ‘not in my backyard’…”, but we imagine that Dart does have this right. After all, the facts clearly show that Dart’s desire to get the GT dump out of its sight is the only reason for relocating it, and contaminating a second site.

Dart knew of the dump when it purchased the Camana Bay land. The fact that Bodden Town residents and property owners didn’t, does give them the right to refuse the proposed dump. However, Mr. McField, apparently speaking, not for Dart, but for “all George Town voters”, seems to feel that this is just, that the real injustice is George Town continuing “…to play host to the garbage of the entire island after having served so long as its economic lifeline as well as its garbage dump…” Honestly, Mr. McField, is it not normal that the economic centre of this island, and the source of most of its waste, also be the site of its waste facility? Are you suggesting that the Bodden Town district will receive the benefits of George Town – its jobs and economic activity – along with its dump? Quite the contrary! As the Coalition has repeatedly pointed out, a dump in our district will be the prime obstacle to new jobs and economic growth. No one will consider establishing a new business, or tourism facility or residential project around a dump. Several tenants in the area have already indicated that they won’t be renewing their leases.

Too much waste

The overwhelming bulk of the Island’s waste is generated in George Town, West Bay and along Seven Mile Beach. Of the estimated 2010 Grand Cayman population of 52,601, no less than 46,869 people resided in West Bay and George Town. This puts 89 per cent of the population – and we can assume of its waste – far from the proposed dump site. Department of Tourism figures for 2011 show a total of 309,091 stay-over tourists, overwhelmingly along the Seven Mile Beach corridor. This adds, on average, another 5,944 every week to the GT-WB area, not to mention that most people living in the Eastern Districts work in the GT “economic lifeline”, producing more waste in the area. We can safely assume that Government intends to truck at least 92 per cent of the Island’s waste all the way to Bodden Town, and on to the proposed dump, wasting fuel, increasing noise, pollution, risk of accidents and wear-and-tear of our roads all along the route. Surely this can only make sense for Dart.

Water Authority experts have stressed the need for “a systematic and complete review” of the project, and for “an Environmental Impact Assessment”. Such an assessment, anywhere in the world, would be the very first step in the process of selecting an alternate dump site, in advance of a site being selected. Such a study has still not been done. We still don’t even know which Government entity decided that the GT dump had to moved and that the Bodden Town site was the best. The only response we’ve received so far is a vague December 20th reference by Minister Scotland to “a private 1990s study”, in which, he admitted, Bodden Town was not the first choice, but demands that he disclose the document remain unanswered.

Inflamed residents

This disregard for due process, transparency and for our environment are only part of what has inflamed, not only Bodden Towners, but many others around the Island. Bodden Town’s already acute traffic problem will be aggravated rather than solved. Economic growth in our district will be stymied instead of stimulated. The common-sense rule of keeping a landfill close to the source of the waste is completely ignored. A dump should be located where residents and property owners have prior knowledge of the proximity of a waste disposal facility. A dump should be located in an industrial area, close to a major roadway, close to the public sewage system and to the source of energy, both for supply and possible resale. It should never be located in a wide open area vulnerable to natural disasters (like hurricanes). It should never be near animal or nature preserves, like Meagre Bay Pond, one of the island’s key bird sanctuaries. Areas of historic value should be avoided, and Bodden Town is the original capital, with several historic attractions and homes. But, above all, the cardinal rule is to never relocate a dump unless absolutely essential. Never contaminate a second site. Any new and improved waste management technology touted for a new site should be implemented (and tested, risk-free) at the existing site.

That successive governments since 1983 have shirked their responsibility of properly managing the George Town landfill and eliminating Mount Trashmore is a national disgrace. This responsibility has been an integral part of the mandate of the well-paid politicians who voluntarily opted for public life as representatives of the people, and who have governed our country. Fixing the problem of the existing landfill – where it is – continues to be government’s responsibility. To allow them to make a deal with Dart to run from the problem by simply “exporting” it elsewhere as a “quick and cheap fix”, and “sweeping it under the carpet”, would compound this national disgrace, and be a poor lesson indeed to our children, to future generations and to future governments. Establishing a new landfill in Bodden Town, to be managed by these same governments, which have shirked their responsibility up until now, has the potential of becoming the worst ecological disaster in Cayman’s history.

Alain Beiner

Bodden Town

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1 COMMENT

  1. I attended that meeting with Dart reps last October, and was as concerned as Alain! When we asked if there was any plan to move the trash from GT to the proposed BT dump, the reply was: Not to our knowledge. Dart will not be managing the BT dump and we can’t trust Govt to do a better job at this than they’ve done in GT. It’s their responsibility to fix the problem where it is!!!

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