Premier: I can handle landfill issue

Aims to have contracts signed and construction under way before election

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Premier Alden McLaughlin insists he has not bitten off more than he can chew by taking on the landfill problem to add to his growing list of ministerial responsibilities.  

Mr. McLaughlin said he is confident contracts will be signed and construction under way on new waste management facilities before the next election. 

He said the project is a priority for the government and for him personally. 

He added that the leadership team steering the process remains in place, despite the ministerial change. And he insisted he can handle his mounting workload. 

“I don’t think it is going to affect the process in a negative way,” he said of the ministerial change. “The key component in terms of the resources and personnel that are driving this are still there. I am going to be very hands-on as far as policy decisions and strategies and so forth, but I am not running every aspect of the ministry.” 

The premier was speaking as new equipment, including a new garbage compactor, was unveiled at the landfill site. It is hoped that the compactor will help reduce the risk of fires, which plagued the site last year. Ten new garbage collection trucks, scheduled to arrive later this month, have been purchased to help improve waste collection and management at the current site. 

However, the search for a long-term solution continues. 

A draft national strategy assessing potential options, including recycling and waste-to-energy technology, is expected to be released for public consultation next month. 

Mr. McLaughlin said the likely solution would involve a mix of different waste management methods across numerous facilities. The landfill site will stay where it is, but he acknowledged other facilities, potentially including a recycling center, could be located elsewhere.  

Though the facilities will not be complete by the next election, he believes a process will have been put in place that cannot be reversed by a new government – without breaking signed contracts. 

“On the basis of the current plan we have, I believe that we will have contracts signed and proper facilities under construction by the time we get to the next election,” he added. Jennifer Ahearn, the chief officer in the ministry, said the next step is public consultation over the national strategy, which should take place in February. 

Mr. McLaughlin acknowledged that the sprawling landfill site remains a blight on the landscape and a barrier to development as the search for a long term fix continues.  

He accepted it is a “huge negative factor” for the Dart group and its development plans in the area. But he said simply moving the problem to Bodden Town would not have fixed the issue.  

“It’s a huge issue and concern for all of us – but you are not going to fix the problem by simply transferring it from here to somewhere else. We need a proper strategy that involves the whole range of options as to how we deal with solid waste. 

“All the Dart group were doing [under the previous proposal] was providing land and digging four pits, which would be lined, into which the stuff would be put. 

“Anything else to do with the facility was on government’s tab, and the reality is the government does not have the wherewithal on its own to create and manage proper comprehensive waste management facilities. That’s why the road we are going down must involve a high degree of private involvement.” 

He said he is confident that the process his government is undertaking, while more time consuming, will deliver a better result in the long term. 

“I do believe that the road down which we are going will deliver to the country, in the long term, a set of facilities which are going to be able to manage Cayman’s waste for the next 50 years.” 

Mr. McLaughlin took over the health ministry, which includes responsibility for the landfill site, in a cabinet reshuffle, effective at the start of this year. Osbourne Bodden, who previously held the portfolio, was facing calls to resign over his behavior and choice of language during a heated dispute with his chief officer Ms. Ahearn in December. 

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Premier Alden McLaughlin, center, at the landfill site on Tuesday to announce the arrival of a new garbage compactor. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY
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  1. Of all that is being said and done, my thoughts are to point out, and to wonder, why is it that if one government feels threatened by a new election, the first thing that they think about is: Let us sign as much new contracts as possible on the eve of election; and put them in place in a way that just in case we have to get up from the table they cannot be reversed by another new government without them having to break contracts.
    Things like this makes me wonder, don’t they realize, that by such actions, they will only be hurting their own people of Cayman Islands whether homegrown or status holders?. Gentlemen, the game is called, SIX UP so please do not shuffle the deck before you get up.

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  2. I am not an expert on waste management and I’m not sure exactly what is planned for the current dumpsite.However the current location is obviously untenable, it cannot take much more garbage, it allows leaching into the North Sound and it has a highly negative impact on George Town as well as this Island’s biggest tourist asset, Camana Bay.
    I have always been a supporter of the PPM but I feel strongly that a new site should be found and the current one capped and landscaped. The scrapping of the Boddentown site was a mistake and I am sorry to say that I feel this was politically motivated.
    I have to say that I strongly disagree with the Premier,in that fixing the problem MUST involve moving it somewhere else, to a more remote location, where the enhanced processing he refers to can be utilised and we are not then exposing our dirty underwear to the public and tourist alike.

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  3. Well his priorities when it comes to the dump are obvious, he wants his own plans put into motion no matter how much they cost Cayman. He knows he needs to get specific contracts signed in a certain way so that he doesn’t have to worry about getting a taste of his own medicine with the next government backing out of some of the promises and deals he makes. The next government will be stuck with finishing whatever super expensive projects he starts, kinda reminds me of the whole schools fiasco all over again.

    He’s is still downplaying the Dart offer by saying all it included was digging two lined holes for stuff to be put in, no mention of the part that included cleaning up and capping the Georgetown Dump as well as the ongoing maintenance of the site. Oh an don’t forget the buildings at the Boddentown Site which were also included.

    What he describes as a solution does make since however, and I am glad to see that he realizes the CIG does’t have the capability of managing waste in Cayman. But we could have saved 100 Million Dollars or more by taking the offer from Dart which would have given us a fresh start. We could have then found a private sector company to manage the new site and all of Cayman’s future waste which would have been paid for through the garbage collection fees. We would also have also ended up with a nice size nice landscaped public park in the middle of the Capitol with walking and bike trails that would be managed and maintained by Dart and you know it would have been top notch because he would have wanted it to compliment Camana Bay. All this could have been completed by the next election. Problem is that it was a solution proposed by the opposing side so it had to be discredited and squashed.

    This is the same thing that happened with the schools and why it ended up costing twice as much as expected. You can best believe that this will also cost twice what’s expected.

    I do believe that eventually the Cayman Dump, that’s what it is not just the George Town Dump will be cleaned up because due attention is now being put on it, and BoddenTown may likely be dump free as they wanted so dearly, but very likely at a cost of roughly 200 Million Dollars, you know money that could have been spent on a new pier or airport or even to pay our mounting debts. It’s also possible that after years of costly research the government will come up with the perfect solution for Caymans waste management issues, however the same research may show that we can’t afford it, can’t borrow and no private company will put up the funding to do it. At which point the successive government be left with the offer from Dart as the only option. And that’s if it’s still on the table.

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  4. As a frequent visitor to the island, I give kudos to the Premier for his optimism on the age-old landfill problems. So much is involved here. Hopefully he will get the needed support to follow through. I wish all concerned good luck.

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