Coalition responds to Compass editorial

We take issue with several assertions made in the Jan. 10 Compass editorial. The editor again peddles the Dart plan as a “modern, lined landfill” — and offered for “free” — while insisting on a “new facility that eliminates the possibility of a new Mount Trashmore emerging in the future.”

A landfill in Bodden Town is no less a “dump” than in George Town — a pit into which the island’s trash is dumped, piled up, and left to rot and become a Mount Trashmore. And the leak from one missorted car battery would render a liner useless. How any dump can be considered “modern,” and how the editor can conceive of one in Bodden Town which prevents another “Mount Trashmore” are beyond us.

That Dart’s dump proposal is “free” is grossly misleading, and not only because Dart would be providing just a minor portion of its so-called “waste management facility.” Given the value to Dart of the GT dump site, adjacent to its Camana Bay project, the trade for Dart’s land in Midland Acres (MA) is as much a fair exchange as the swap of 10 acres of prime Manhattan land for 100 acres of backwoods in West Virginia. Dart executives admit that the present dump is the “single most commonly stated hurdle for potential purchasers of various residential units at Camana Bay.”

Certainly a terrific deal for Dart, but who would absorb the cost of transporting most of the island waste so far from the source, in terms of truck fuel, wear and tear of roads and vehicles, increased noise, pollution and road accidents, not to mention the decrease in real estate value for property owners in MA, the loss of future area development, and the tens of millions of dollars needed to extend the East-West Arterial to properly service a dump in Bodden Town.

Even more outrageous is the editor’s claim that notions of turning trash into energy are “fanciful,” “fairy-tale fantasies.” The editor would sound foolish indeed elsewhere in the world, where trash is valuable and in short supply. Sweden is running out of garbage because of an innovative waste-to-energy (WTE) program and efficient recycling habits, whereby only 4 percent of its waste ends up in landfills. Oslo, Norway’s capital of 1.4 million residents, relies on WTE for most of its energy, and can’t find enough trash.

According to Pal Mikkelsen, head of Oslo’s WTE agency, “There’s a European waste market — it’s a commodity…I’d like to take some from the USA, as sea transport is cheap.” Shortages of trash are causing severe competition between WTE facilities and the trend is continuing to the U.K., with the announcement last year of an £8 million waste-to-energy plant in Teeside, serving an area of over a million people. The groundbreaking for Aruba’s first WTE project occurred this past December 18th, a joint private/public venture using small, affordable air curtains.

Whether labeled a “dump” or a “landfill,” they are things of the past, underlined by the fact that the U.K. and Ireland are facing a European Landfill Directive to stop burying organic waste by 2020, under penalty of paying 48 euros per ton for disposal. It’s clearly the editor’s notion of a “modern dump” which is “fanciful.”

“Garbage is not going away,” explains Joseph DeCarolis, assistant professor of water resources and environmental engineering at North Carolina State University. According to DeCarolis, unless we incinerate residual waste which can’t be recycled, it has to be landfilled, and landfills cause environmental threats — methane, groundwater pollution, and removing land from productive use. If we don’t incinerate, he adds, “we will not get away from having an environmental impact.”

“To be efficient, incinerators must be located near the people who generate the waste,” DeCarolis says. “You don’t want to put incinerators in the middle of nowhere, because the cost of bringing all the waste is too high and there will be no market for the steam generated.”

Rather than a “fairy-tale fantasy,” burning municipal waste — everything from household trash and industrial scrap to toxic, hazmat, and medical refuse — is already big business in Northern Europe. And, no matter how it gets to Oslo, as elsewhere, “the trash always ends up the same way: a pile of ash and a puff of flue gas.”

Incinerators were rather dirty 25 years ago, but current air emissions are below U.S. EPA standards. In a modern incinerator, a set of filters removes heavy metals and other pollutants; high-temperature operation reduces the output of toxic dioxins.

Curious that the Compass has consistently promoted and even embellished Dart’s dump proposal, describing it in words taken out of Dart’s PR material, often intact, uncritically and unquoted, even stating that the plan includes “waste-to-energy conversion” (June 12, 2013 issue), which Dart readily admits isn’t the case. All the more intriguing this over-zealous support, considering that our Central Tenders Committee, after reviewing several proposals for resolving the George Town dump problem, rejected the Dart plan, and gave it the lowest rating of all.

Alain Beiner
For the Coalition to Keep BT Dump Free

How any dump can be considered “modern,” and how the editor can conceive of one in Bodden Town which prevents another “Mount Trashmore” are beyond us.