The periodic conflagrations send Cayman fire crews scrambling across the face of Mount Trashmore to snuff out burning material and douse deep-seated hot spots with water. While our firefighters have managed, so far, to win each individual battle, they cannot be expected to maintain control forever over more than 1 million tons of combustible refuse, stacked more than 80 feet in the air.
Sooner or later, the law of entropy will prevail.
Although the dump fires are becoming more routine, we cannot allow them to become a matter of routine. Our perspective on the dump fires should be similar to how Californians regard earthquakes: The next one might well be “The Big One.”
The most recent blaze at the landfill is a good example. Firefighters received a 911 call Sunday morning, responded rapidly and were able to extinguish the flames within two hours. Well done — but as Acting Fire Chief Roy Grant attested, the margin between victory and catastrophe was far narrower than may have appeared.
“When we got here, it was a fairly good fire, but we surrounded it and cut it off,” he said. “It had the potential to be a major, major fire, but we had it surrounded quickly.”
The distinction — and it’s a positive one — between Cayman’s dump and California’s earthquakes is that Cayman’s disaster is self-inflicted. Made by man, it can be remedied by man as well.
As attention-grabbing as the fires are — public interest in the topic flares up whenever the landfill does — the problem with the dump is not that it catches fire. Certainly, the fires are singularly dangerous events, but they are merely symptoms of the underlying disease and unwelcome reminders of the latent hazards lurking within the toxic, unlined landfill. Even when this hellish monster is in quiet repose, it constitutes Cayman’s greatest menace to the health of our people, our environment and our tourism product.
Put another way, the problem isn’t the fire, it’s the fuel.
In the meantime, our government continues to saunter along its procedural path at a plodding pace. Late last week we received word that two companies had submitted proposals to remove the vast stockpiles of used tires from Cayman’s three landfills, in response to an advertisement that government put out in late May.
If the government has actually found two companies interested in taking away those tires, at no charge, why the delay? Sign on the dotted line, and let them get to work.
To Minister Osbourne Bodden, we repeat our entreaty to sign the following pledge: “If a new waste management facility is not in operation in Grand Cayman by 2017, I will withdraw my name from consideration for re-election.”
We’re merely asking him to put into writing what he has proclaimed in public. Minister Bodden and his fellow MLAs from Bodden Town made a similar commitment during the 2013 campaign, when they pledged to “vote against any proposal in the Legislative Assembly which involves establishing a waste management facility in Bodden Town.”
More importantly, we have heard nothing from any of the elected members from George Town — Marco Archer, Winston Connolly, Joey Hew, Alden McLaughlin, Roy McTaggart and Kurt Tibbetts — to whom we issued the same challenge, and in whose district, after all, the landfill resides.
Do they have faith in Minister Bodden’s timeline to fix the landfill, in situ, as they say?
If so, we invite them to risk their jobs on it.