Although the Dart group of companies has not commented on the project since the 22 May Cayman Islands general election, Cabinet ministers signalled in their first press briefing Tuesday that a landfill development project planned for Midland Acres would not be happening. It may have something to do with the fact that new Minister of Health, Osbourne Bodden, hails from the district where the project was going to be constructed.
“We’re going to sit and talk to all the stakeholders … but I can say it’s not going in Bodden Town,” Mr. Bodden said.
The ruling People’s Progressive Movement government, along with a number of independent candidates, campaigned on the promise of killing the Midland Acres landfill project during the recently-completed campaign, so Mr. Bodden’s position comes as no surprise.
“We would welcome the chance to understand more about the new government’s wishes for waste management, and look forward to further details on their strategic plans,” said Mark VanDevelde, chief executive officer of Dart Enterprises.
Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin, when asked if the new government had any communication with the Dart group of companies, said: “I’ve had no official communication.”
Minister Bodden, whose remit will be health, youth, sports and culture, said the landfill issue would be a “major priority” during the new government’s administration.
“Under the last PPM administration, we had a number of solutions to the problem and all pointed to on-site remediation, recycling and waste-to-energy and all that,” he said.
Under previous governments, responsibility for landfills in the Cayman Islands has come under the remit of the Ministry of Works, but Mr. McLaughlin, who announced his new Cabinet ministers Tuesday, said waste management issues would be dealt with by Mr. Bodden in his capacity as health minister.
In 2007, the government commissioned solid waste consultants Gersham, Brickner and Bratton Inc. to come up with a development plan for a waste-to-energy facility at the George Town landfill site. The consultants concluded there was not enough available land at the site to accommodate a waste-to-energy plant, a new lined landfill for non-burnable waste and waste reduction and mining facilities. The consultants estimated that mining the waste would take about 20 years to complete.
The company also reported that building a waste-to-energy facility at the so-called “Mount Trashmore” in George Town would cost $100 million, along with annual funding of $18 million to $23 million, while producing $6.5 million worth of electricity per year.
An earlier report by Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan, Inc. in 2000 analysed alternative systems of waste management based on the assumption that the dump would reach capacity in 2002 and be closed. That report eliminated shipping waste off-island as an alternative, because of objections from the US Department of Agriculture. It also considered composting, waste to energy, landfill and combinations of these and concluded that, irrespective of what waste reduction technologies were adopted, a landfill at an engineered facility would be required in a new and relatively remote location.
Martin Edelenbos, engineering coordinator of waste management for Dart Realty, previously explained some of the challenges the company faces with the site. “The waste mound at George Town landfill is now about 80 feet high, it is mostly uncovered, there is no liner beneath the waste, no leachate collection or treatment, no storm water management and no landfill gas management,” he said.
Dart Realty last year met with Waste Management, the company that owns Wheelabrator Technologies Inc., which won an initial waste management tender bid, to discuss Dart’s proposals. The company approved of the plan to have a dump on a different site than the existing one.
Waste Management acknowledged that the limited space at the George Town site could be used as a waste-to-energy facility, but cautioned, “such facilities generate residue requiring disposal, and not all wastes can be processed through a waste-to-energy facility. Therefore, either the George Town site would need to be expanded or a new site developed to accept the waste-to-energy bypass and residue.”
The company, in a letter to Dart, said it “would not recommend mining and subsequently processing previously landfilled waste in order to gain future capacity” at the George Town site.
Caymanian Compass journalist Norma Connolly contributed to this report.