The Chamber echoed cries for immediate government action in recent Compass editorials, on Rooster Radio, from the Leader of the Opposition and among people of all political persuasions and corners of the country.
It is not an exaggeration to state that the George Town landfill has become the most urgent issue facing Cayman.
And yet, government’s response has been anything but urgent, bordering on a yawny display of lethargy: Minister Bodden appears content to have set up a new committee (featuring political cronies), requisition more research, and, oh yes, take a few field trips to landfills in Florida.
Meanwhile, the George Town dump has now caught fire in spectacular fashion on two separate occasions during the height of this tourism season, spewing plumes of noxious smoke above the Grand Cayman skyline.
Astonishingly, both government and public health director Kiran Kumar are unable to reassure residents and tourists that the smoke they are inhaling is harmless.
The onus is clearly on health officials to prove these fumes are benign. Until that can be demonstrated, the presumption must be that they are toxic and doing harm to our citizenry. The lackadaisical response from government regarding these issues is simply not acceptable.
For example, during both recent landfill fires, no health warnings were issued to the public. Why not?
Ponder that thought in the context of a story on the front page of today’s Compass in which Todd Thalhamer, a senior waste management engineer at a recycling company in California and an adviser to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the following:
“When landfills catch fire, they do produce toxic smoke. The question is, without air sampling of the smoke, you can’t make the determination if it is a health concern.”
In Cayman, no testing of the smoke was conducted during either fire, according to Maysson Sallam, assistant director of the Department of Environmental Health.
Mr. Thalhamer warned, “If you can smell it, then you need to move, because you don’t know whether it is toxic or not.” He pointed out the danger is worse for the elderly and those with respiratory ailments such as asthma.
If politicians are adept at anything, it usually is discerning the will of the people who quadrennially vote them into — or out of — office. Addressing the George Town landfill, as we’ve suggested, is one of those few issues upon which voters from all constituencies agree.
We’ll leave it to Premier Alden McLaughlin to explain why he gave Minister Bodden authority over the dump. For now, we’ll make three observations that concern us.
Minister Bodden, and the rest of the PPM, campaigned on the platform of “No Dump in Bodden Town” — a parochial pledge still being adhered to.
Promptly after the May 2013 election, Minister Bodden quashed the Dart Group’s $60 million solution — while at the same time saying the dump would be a “major priority” for the government.
Seven months later, Minister Bodden’s approach to date consists of appointing a 16-member committee.
What Cayman needs is immediate action. What we’ve gotten is smoke from the dump, and smoke and mirrors from the government.