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.