A hot topic in the run-up to this year’s election, especially in Bodden Town, is what can be done with the ever expanding George Town Landfill.
While there is a proposal to close the George Town dump and create a new one in the district of Bodden Town as part of a land swap deal between the Cayman Islands Government and Dart Realty, no deal has yet been signed or finalised.
The Dart proposal includes design and construction of a waste management facility on 110 acres of land near Midland Acres in Bodden Town. The company hired consultants Cardno Entrix to undertake an environmental impact assessment. Public comments are being incorporated into the draft environmental statement produced by Cardno Entrix and, according to Dart, the final environmental statement will be published shortly.
With the election just a day away, it will be up to the next government whether to continue to negotiate with Dart on this proposal, which is part of the ForCayman Investment Alliance, or to come up with an entirely different solution to the 80-foot-high landfill.
Jackie Doak, chief operating officer at Dart Realty, told the Caymanian Compass, “Dart looks forward to discussing a comprehensive and sustainable solution to waste management in Grand Cayman with the new administration.”
According to Dart Realty, its proposal to cap and remediate Mount Trashmore will cost the company about US$32.5 million and its provision of the 110 acre site in Bodden Town, its detailed design of the facility master plan and development of the initial phase of the comprehensive facility, which include the first landfill cell, operations and administrative facilities, as well as prepared areas for waste reduction initiatives is valued at US$40.5 million.
McKeeva Bush’s United Democratic Party government entered into the proposed deal with Dart to create a dump in Bodden Town to replace the George Town Landfill, known locally as Mount Trashmore.
According to the UDP’s election manifesto: “We will encourage private sector investment in converting the George Town Landfill into a solar energy facility.”
The party is also promoting the idea of private investors promoting waste to energy facilities to deal with the country’s garbage, which the UDP say will lead to lower electricity bills.
A former member of the UDP and incumbent Bodden Town MLA, Dwayne Seymour, who is running for office in Bodden Town with the fledgling People’s National Alliance party, claimed he and his colleagues were “thrown under the bus” on the proposal as they were not told about plans to create a dump in his constituency.
Mr. Seymour told a Chamber of Commerce district candidate forum in Bodden Town last month that his support of a dump in Bodden Town would depend on what the public in the district wanted. “Right now, they’re saying no,” he said.
Environment Minister Mark Scotland, who was also minister when the former UDP government began negotiating with Dart to develop a waste management facility in Bodden Town, told the Chamber candidate forum he attended that he did not support a “dump in Bodden Town”, but also feels that maintaining the landfill site in George Town is not an option.
“What was being proposed was a waste management facility, we made a proposal for that, we said studies were going to be done, one study is complete, another, which is a technical review, is still on the way,” said Mr. Scotland, who is running with the People’s National Alliance in Bodden Town. “With those studies in hand, government, in consultation with the public, can make a decision on what to do.”
Mr. Scotland warned the situation in George Town was an “environmental disaster waiting to happen”, saying a study by the previous PPM government showed it would cost $100 million to rebuild the facility and an additional $25 million annually to operate it, resources that will be hard to find.
The People’s Progressive Movement’s stance on waste management is that it also opposes establishing a dump in Bodden Town. According to the Progressive’s manifesto, “We do not see the point of simply transferring our current landfill and dump from George Town to Bodden Town. What Cayman needs is a comprehensive waste management facility. We believe we should continue to use the present George Town site and the adjacent government owned-land to develop a solution that includes recycling and new technologies for waste-to-energy.”
UDP candidate for George Town Ellio Solomon said experts advise that it would take 25 years or more, with a capital expense of $200 million, to create a waste-to-energy facility and reduce the height of the existing landfill to 15 feet. He added that the idea to create a new landfill in the eastern part of Grand Cayman had been discussed for two decades, so the proposal is not new.
Another UDP candidate for George Town, Walling Whittaker, told the forum that at the current rate, in 10 years people will be able to see the top of the dump from South Sound, and in 20 years will be able to see it from Prospect. “Something needs to be done now. Anyone who suggests they should keep the current facility in George Town and further contaminate our beloved North Sound shouldn’t be running for this election,” he said.
His fellow UDP George Town candidate Rayal Bodden pointed out that the proposed new landfill site is not in central Bodden Town. “It’s out in Breakers in the middle of nowhere between two or three big quarries. It’s not going to affect anybody in that area as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Most independents in the political race have said they oppose the establishment of a dump in Bodden Town, but they also acknowledge that something must be done to address solid waste management issues in the Cayman Islands.
Bodden Town independent Errington Webster said he believed there was a “good chance” what was proposed at the Midland Acres would not turn into a waste management or recycling centre, but would simply be “another dump”.
Charles Clifford, a former environment minister under the PPM government, and now running as an independent in Bodden Town, told the Chamber forum, “The people of Bodden Town do not want a dump or waste management facility in their district”. Mr. Clifford is one of the leaders of the Coalition to Keep Bodden Town Dump Free, along with another independent Bodden Town candidate, Gregg Anderson, who said a dump in Bodden Town would cause “environmental damage, economic depression, health hazards, property devaluations and other attendant ills to our district”.
Independent Arnold Berry said former members of parliament should have been involved in the decision making process, adding that “That is why the Advisory District Council is so important”.
Coalition for Cayman-endorsed George Town independent Ms Haynes told the Chamber forum that Cayman needs a comprehensive waste management policy, including mandatory recycling.
In an earlier interview with the Compass, Vincent Frederick, also running as an independent, and a former leader of the Coalition To Keep Bodden Town Dump Free, said other political hopefuls were now jumping on the dump opposition bandwagon in the run-up to the election. “Suddenly it is the hot topic for those at the last minute trying to gain fame for what others did years before. Arriving on the scene when the battle is over is disrespectful and embarrassing and I want to remind the people of Bodden Town that it was Vincent Frederick and the rest of the members from the Committee to Keep Bodden Town Dump Free that fought the government over the dump issue and it was we who pressured the minister and his colleague for months and no one else. If elected I would continue my legacy and I remind the people that I was the their voice then, I am their voice now and I intend to be their voice
George Town independent candidate Matthew Leslie sat on the waste-to-energy committee at the time US firm Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. was selected to build and operate a waste-to-energy facility at the George Town landfill site. He told a George Town Chamber forum that the Dart group’s proposal to remediate the existing landfill and create a new facility in Bodden Town came in last place during that bidding processing and that the government at the time “went from the best choice to the worst choice”. Mr. Leslie added that he supports pursuing the earlier plan to institute waste-to-energy at the existing landfill. Coalition for Cayman-backed independent candidate in George Town Roy McTaggart told the same forum meeting that the landfill issue needed to be dealt with immediately. “At the moment, I am not convinced that the dump needs to be moved from George Town,” he said, adding that with about 30 acres of land surrounding the existing landfill site, a proper waste management facility could be developed right there.
“I don’t believe in just taking one problem out of one district and putting it in another,” he said.