Yes, Health Minister Osbourne Bodden formed a 16-member committee to navigate the U.K.-supervised procurement process to bring about an “integrated solid waste management solution” across all three islands.
Yes, the committee released a “strategic outline case” in late May, predicting a fix would cost more than $100 million and take five years to bring about.
Yes, the government has diverted some funds and earmarked others to ensure the Department of Environmental Health has adequate equipment and personnel to operate the landfill on a daily basis.
And, yes, in early June Minister Bodden altered his timeline script verbally when he told his fellow lawmakers the solid waste project could be finished as soon as mid-2017.
But, no – as the thousands who had the misfortune to be within sniffing distance are already aware – none of those official statements, policy proposals or cosmetic modifications could prevent Grand Cayman’s landfill from bursting into flames and spewing toxic smoke across our island, yet again.
Nor could they be expected to; there is simply too much trash in Mount Trashmore, and all of those government “actions” together didn’t prevent one ounce of garbage from being tossed on top of the heap.
This weekend’s conflagration was another one of those dangerous, “deep-seated” fires, according to Acting Fire Chief Roy Grant, who said on Sunday, “It has been burning underneath the landfill, and we just have to keep digging until we come to the end of the vein and the fire is completely out … when that is going to be, we don’t really know.”
Mr. Grant, of course, was talking about his firefighters’ tactical approach to battling a blaze of unknowable dimensions, but he may as well have been attempting to encapsulate the government’s overall strategy on dealing with the dump: Keep picking away in ad hoc fashion until the public’s attention begins to wane. Then when the topic again catches fire, release another flurry of statements and reports, for the sake of maintaining political appearances at least.
According to the “Anticipated Project Timeline” in the strategic outline case, the government currently is seeking proposals from consultants to create a strategy and “outline business case” for a waste management solution.
The government plans to award the consultants’ contract by September, with the strategy and business case being published and approved sometime before July 2015 – a full year from now.
Where is the urgency?
After that, the timeline gets fuzzier, with actual works to start in 2017 and new operations to begin in 2019, perhaps.
Meanwhile, the dump continues to burn from the inside out. The landfill will not allow itself to be forgotten, and the Compass will not allow the people of Cayman to forget that the Progressives repeatedly proclaimed on the campaign trail that they had a ready solution for the dump, and one of their first acts upon taking office more than one year ago was to spurn the Dart Group’s $60 million deal to close and remediate the George Town landfill and construct a properly lined waste management facility in the far east corner of the district of Bodden Town.
Here’s a mental exercise worth practicing: Each time you drive by the dump, take a deep breath. Allow your olfactory receptors to take in the putridity of the atmosphere. Then, remind yourself of the promises made by the Progressives politicians.
What really may be going up in flames are the re-election chances of those non-Bodden Towners who, in the need to form a government, supported the parochial district pledge of “No Dump in Bodden Town.”
They have much to answer for, and the smell and the smoke of the landfill are unpleasant and unhealthy reminders.