Wastewater issues include Dolphin Discovery
The Dolphin Discovery facility in West Bay does not possess a wastewater discharge permit from Water Authority-Cayman as would normally be required for such a facility, an open records request made by a member of the public has revealed.
However, according to statements provided under the Freedom of Information Law, the Dolphin Discovery facility is not required to possess such a licence because of its current tenant relationship with the Cayman Turtle Farm facility, located across the street on North West Point Road.
“Cayman Turtle Farm [provides Dolphin Discovery] with feedwater from the Cayman Turtle Farm’s seawater intake and Dolphin Discovery disposes of their effluent into Cayman Turtle Farm’s disposal system,” according to information provided by Water Authority-Cayman. “No separate discharge permit has been issued for Dolphin Discovery.”
Effluent is used to describe the total of the discharge that flows from the Turtle Farm property into the surrounding sea, whether liquid or solid. It includes things like wastewater, normal water, food and even particulate matter such as soil and dust.
A June 2008 report from then-Complaints Commissioner John Epp revealed that the Turtle Farm had not obtained a waste discharge licence from Water Authority-Cayman despite the fact two of its senior management acknowledged they knew a permit was required.
“It is argued that effluent … may have interfered with the attractiveness to the water tourism industry of Cayman’s well-known surrounding reefs and contributed to the reduction in the production of beach sand,” Mr. Epp’s report read.
The report also cited anecdotal observations by the Department of Environment of a stunting of coral growth in the immediate area surrounding the West Bay facility, although it said no recent environmental study had been done to quantify the effects of the effluent discharge.
Since the time that report was issued, the Turtle Farm has taken a number of steps to secure its discharge licence and monitor the flow of effluent into the sea, according to Managing Director Tim Adam.
The water authority’s information provided under FOI indicated that the Turtle Farm was granted a marine discharge permit in October 2008. That permit expired in September 2010, subject to review. The marine discharge permit allowed the Turtle Farm to discharge waste water from the turtle breeding pond and commercial turtle tanks.
In February 2009, the Turtle Farm was granted a “variation”, according to the water authority, to allow for the inclusion of Dolphin Discovery on its wastewater discharge permit.
“The 17 February, 2009 variation … added the discharge of trade wastewater from the dolphin lagoon operated by Dolphin Discovery Cayman Ltd on property leased from the permit holder [the Turtle Farm],” the water authority’s FOI response read. “The trade wastewater from the dolphin lagoon discharges into the discharge channel leading to the sea outfall operated by the [Turtle Farm].
“Dolphin Discovery has no discharge permit, so technically they are not under any obligation for compliance [with the water authority’s laws and regulations’,” the statement read.
Since September 2010, Mr. Adam said that the Turtle Farm operation has worked constantly with the water authority to monitor waste discharge.
“We know what’s going into the water,” Mr. Adam said. “What the monitoring does is put precise measurements on it.”
However, when the two-year discharge permit granted to the facility on 1 October, 2008, expired in September 2010, government auditors report that the Turtle Farm had not met effluent discharge reduction goals that were a condition of the permit being granted.
“The two-year permit … required the [Turtle Farm] to reduce its effluent discharge by 50 per cent by 1 July, 2009,” a 2011 audit stated. “Through the date that these financial statements … the company has not met the 50 per cent reduction criteria.”
In June of 2011, Water Authority-Cayman Director Gelia Frederick-van Genderen issued a statement saying the Turtle Farm had applied for an extension of its marine discharge permit.
“The Water Authority, for the time being, has agreed [the Turtle Farm] can continue to operate under their permit,” she said. “In the meantime, the authority considers a new permit.”
Mr. Adam said Thursday that Turtle Farm officials are still working on obtaining a new discharge permit. He said constant routine monitoring of the waste water discharge is being done under the supervision of the water authority.