The government instructed an environment watchdog not to undertake a review of an overall waste management solution for Grand Cayman, but to concentrate solely on proposals to create a new dump in Bodden Town, minutes of a Water Authority-Cayman board meeting have revealed.
The minutes, released under a Freedom of Information request, showed that government ministers instructed the Environmental Advisory Board to limit its review to the proposals for the Bodden Town dump presented by Dart Realty Cayman Limited and “not to carry out a review of the most suitable overall waste management solution for Grand Cayman”.
The minutes continued: “Also, the ministers instructed the Environmental Advisory Board not to examine alternatives for the location of the WMF (waste management facility) in Bodden Town.”
Members of the Coalition to Keep Bodden Town Dump Free described this revelation, contained in the minutes of a 28 March Water Authority board meeting, as “stunning”.
“These explicit orders from government ministers to the EAB follow months of unanswered requests by the Coalition to Keep BT Dump Free for documents explaining the reasons for moving the George Town dump to Bodden Town, identifying the government entity which made that decision, and disclosing when, how and by whom the proposed site in Bodden Town was selected.
“The coalition has also demanded the reasons for government’s decision to ditch its agreement to build a waste-to-energy facility to solve the George Town landfill problem where it is, without contaminating a new site. Government inexplicably ignored due process, transparency, and the Central Tenders Committee, which recommended the WTE proposal as its first choice,” a statement from the group released on Thursday, 7 June said. “The CTC rejected Dart’s proposal to move the dump and gave it the lowest marks of any option considered, because of ‘grave concern’ about the impact of a dump in an ‘environmentally sensitive’ area. Government and Dart have yet to answer a single coalition question, or produce any of the documents asked for,” the statement continued.
The minutes showed that the overall plans for the George Town landfill closure and the waste management facility in Bodden Town were presented at a meeting between Dart Realty Cayman Limited, the Water Authority, the Department of Environment, government ministers Juliana O’Connor-Connolly and Mark Scotland, ministry staff and government agencies in February 2012. At that meeting, the Water Authority and the Department of Environment advised the ministers that various government agencies should work together to carry out a comprehensive environmental review of the proposals.
According to the minutes, Water Authority Board chairman Lemuel Hurlston reported that the government then agreed to a review of the plans by the Environmental Advisory Board.
The Environmental Advisory Board is not an official body, but is established under the draft National Conservation Bill, which is still awaiting passage through the Legislative Council. The advisory board was set up to review projects with the potential for major environmental impact.
The Environmental Advisory Board is chaired by the Department of Environment and its members include representatives from the National Roads Authority, Department of Environmental Health, the Petroleum Inspector, Planning Department and Water Authority.
Under the arrangement Dart Realty has made with the Cayman Islands government, Dart is to provide the government with 100 acres of land in Bodden Town, east of Midland Acres, for a waste management facility. Dart will build the first phase of the facility, including one of the proposed seven lined landfill cells, site roads, buildings and infrastructure. The government would be responsible for future phases of the project.
The George Town landfill would be closed upon completion of phase one of the project and the Department of Environmental Health, which operates the George Town dump, would begin working at the new dump site. Dart would take ownership of the George Town site and has made an undertaking to cap the waste mound and remediate the landfill.
The Environmental Advisory Board has completed its initial review of the proposed Bodden Town site and as a result, comprehensive terms of reference are being developed for an environmental impact assessment of the waste management facility. Both the terms of reference and the draft environmental report will be subject to public consultation, the minutes noted.
No FOI response
The Coalition to Keep Bodden Town Dump Free has also raised concerns that an FOI request it made to the Planning Department was unfruitful.
“Equally disturbing for the coalition are the responses received to its FOI request for information from the National Roads Authority and from the Central Planning Authority. In a flyer distributed to Bodden Town post boxes in early February, the so-called ‘ForCayman Investment Alliance’ (FCIA, created by Dart and by government) claims that ‘meetings have occurred’ about the proposed dump in Bodden Town with the NRA and the Central Planning Authority.
“In its May 8th response, the Department of Planning claims that it “holds no information in relation to your request at this time.” According to the NRA response received on May 16th from the Executive Secretary of the Board of Directors, “the NRA do not have in its possession any of the information requested below, therefore no information can be provided as requested”.