Meanwhile … at the landfill

In May 2013, the Progressives rode a tide of popular support into office, sweeping all four seats in Bodden Town on the strength of candidates’ pledges to keep the Dart Group’s proposed landfill out of their home district, amid assurances they already had an alternative solution for the George Town dump.

They didn’t.

One of MLA Osbourne Bodden’s first actions upon taking over the ministry responsible for solid waste was to reject Dart’s offer, valued at $60 million.
A year-and-a-half later, we have no alternative solution – and the pile of garbage at the George Town Landfill continues to grow.

Days before Christmas 2013, the dump burst into flames, spewing poisonous black smoke across Grand Cayman, sparking public outrage and eventually provoking the government, in February, into appointing a 16-member waste management steering committee to investigate the issue. A mere handful of hours after the government sent the press release announcing the formation of the committee, the dump burst into flames, again.

In late March, Minister Bodden – accompanied by his Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn and Department of Environmental Health Director Roydell Carter – flew to Tampa to inspect waste management facilities in that area. A second fact-finding mission took place in early May, this time to a waste-to-energy conference in Virginia.

In late May, the committee released a “strategic outline case,” predicting that fixing the dump would cost more than $100 million (which we don’t have and can’t borrow) and take five years to bring about. In early June, Minister Bodden altered that timeline verbally, saying the new waste operations could begin as soon as mid-2017 (just in time for the next general election). In July, the dump caught fire yet again.

In late July, Minister Bodden sent a scathing letter to the Cayman Compass, taking this Editorial Board to task for our public skepticism of his pronouncements. He wrote: “This is our single biggest focus in the Ministry, and not an idle campaign promise, as you would like the public to believe.”

He declared: “By the summer of 2015 we should see the start of plant construction at the landfill, with finalization by the end of 2016 and the start of operations in 2017!”

Earlier this week, Minister Bodden conceded that his operational deadline of 2017 was, in fact, not realistic.

This week the government announced it was signing a half-million dollar contract with AMEC (along with local partner KPMG) to prepare a national strategy for a waste management facility that would serve these islands 50 years into the future. Pardon our skepticism, but no consulting firm – and certainly no government (whose calendars are demarcated in four-year electoral cycles) – is prescient enough to see a half-century into the future.

Concerning landfills, Minister Bodden is less known for his expertise than for his campaign pledge, “No dump in Bodden Town.” If his plan all along was to engage high-priced consultants – and presumably take their advice – why were he and his entourage taking field trips to off-island waste management sites?

Let us be clear: We support the engagement of outside experts, particularly on subjects as technically complex as solid waste management. Cayman’s entire landfill mess should have been outsourced to experts and managed by professionals decades ago.

In the meantime, the pile of garbage at the dump – and its attendant health risks – has continued to grow. In fairness to Minister Bodden, he certainly didn’t create this problem – but he and his colleagues were opportunistic enough to campaign on it and promise to fix it.

Broken campaign promises have a likelihood of resurfacing – usually during the next campaign.

7 COMMENTS

  1. I am starting to get a much clearer understanding of the core problem with government. It seems that the people in the very senior positions that should be industry experts in their respective areas of responsibilities don’t have qualifications and experience necessary to perform their jobs. As a result of this they have to rely heavily on outside consultants and other resources at a significant cost to the government.

    If we are going to continue with the existing approach of utilizing external consultants then we don’t actually need many of the the senior staff with the government ministries, departments and companies.

  2. I truly do not believe that in 2017 general election anyone will be able to gallop in on a dump promise. That would not be wise, because the dump campaign has already burnt out in Bodden Town. People knew then and people know now that there was no solution in the making; and the major concerns now, is whether we will be getting value for money.
    I personally believe that Dart would have made sure a good job was done just because of his track record.
    Now every cat in the woods will try and exercise a better meow, but it is the kitty litter that will determine who stays in the house.
    If politicians are preparing for a 2017 dump fix it, I think they will regret that, because people always watch keenly for those On the Eve of Election patch and slap jobs, and have made many loose their chair in the LA.

  3. Many Thanks to the Editorial Board for bring clarity to this timeline for all to see.
    After saying that I find it hard to believe anything coming out of his mouth, I stand corrected they did point out something I find truthful that did come out of Mr Bodden’s mouth, and that is that his operational deadline of 2017 was, in fact, not realistic.
    While for the most part I agree with this editorial boards opinion, in the case of supporting the engagement of outside experts I am finding it hard to get on the bandwagon with this because in my opinion no outside experts, committees or high end project managers will be able to come up with an affordable solution for Caymans growing garbage issues, and the more they grow the more it will cost to resolve. This is just another high priced attempt to distract everyone from the fact that we had a chance to get these issued resolved and get a fresh start at no cost to the public purse and Mr Bodden basically blew it off to protect the selfish interests of his own district.
    The money being spent on these committees, Consultants, experts and project managers could have went towards developing a national recycling strategy for the whole country at a new facility that would have been built to the highest standards and handed over to us. Instead of dealing with the smell and dangers or the GT Dump, we would have been looking at a huge beautifully landscaped public park and nature reserve in the middle of our primary tourism district that would have been built over the properly capped dump site and the expensive ongoing cost of mange this site would have been done by a private sector company with a proven history of doing thing to the highest standards and it would have been at no cost to the public purse. But now we are faced with finding a solution that will cost over a 100 Million dollars that we don’t even have not including dealing with the current pile of trash. This will surely lead to burgeoning garbage collection fees for every home owner including those in Bodden Town. This will also lead to higher rent for tenants and higher costs for businesses for example restaurants effecting the cost of living across the board.
    In all seriousness this was a huge blunder that will cost us all for decades to come. And all for one single reason, to keep Bodden Town from having a Waste Management Facility in their district.

  4. I understand the concerns held by the members of the district of Boddentown that they would have similar dump problem as exist currently in George Town.
    Where ever the waste management facility is constructed and managed it must be operated in conjunction with recycling and operated along 21st century guidelines.
    Then perhaps residents will have more confidence in accepting such a facility within their district.

  5. I disagree Jack, With the NIMBY attitude of most people it wouldn’t matter if the dump was being run by NASA people would still protest it and politicians would certainly jump on the bandwagon to get their votes.

  6. Agree Michael.
    … because of the stupidity of the average man, he follows not reason, but faith. And this naive faith requires necessary illusion, and emotionally potent oversimplifications, which are provided by the myth-maker to keep the ordinary person on course.(Walter Lippmann )

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