Landfill catches fire again

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What was described as a “sizeable surface fire” at the George Town Landfill was reported early Sunday afternoon.  

The blaze, which started in a large pile of residential waste near a big pile of discarded tires, appeared to have been brought under control by press time Sunday.  

However, fire crews remained on scene late Sunday, awaiting the arrival of an excavator. The construction equipment was needed to dig into the trash pile so that firefighters could ensure nothing was burning underneath the surface.  

The Cayman Islands Fire Service does not have an excavator, but government officials believed the Department of Environmental Health, which manages the landfill site, did have one.  

Ministry of Home Affairs officials, the ministry which manages the fire service, said it was not immediately clear what started the blaze.  

Wispy, low-lying clouds of whitish-gray smoke were spotted wafting over the two-lane section of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway by 1 p.m. Sunday, causing drivers to slow down and rubber-neck their way through the smog. Gray plumes from the fire could be seen for miles early Sunday afternoon. 

In terms of size and duration, Sunday’s fire was small in comparison to separate incidents in December 2013 and February 2014 when the George Town Landfill burned for 12 hours or longer.  

On Dec. 20, 2013, a massive tire fire sparked by what officials believed were propane tank explosions burned for half a day, sending a dark black, miles-long column of smoke over Seven Mile Beach.  

On Feb. 11, 2014, an even larger fire in terms of area broke out at the landfill. That blaze took two days to extinguish.  

The deep-seated February 2014 fire, in a large residential trash pile at the landfill’s southern end, was more difficult to battle since five pieces of heavy equipment normally used to fight fires or mitigate the occurrence of fires were out of order. Then-Health Minister Osbourne Bodden said at the time that two bulldozers, a trash compactor and two excavators normally available to the dump site were broken down. Some funding was removed from other areas of the government’s 2013/14 budget, including the National Museum’s budget, to pay for equipment for the landfill site.  

Other recent fires   

In late-July 2014, another major fire broke out at the landfill, this time not quite as visible to the public because it was largely underground.  

In that blaze, fire crews battled a deep-seated fire from July 18. It was finally brought under control on July 24.  

A smaller fire broke out the weekend of Aug. 1-2, but still required a few more days for firefighters to extinguish. At the time, Acting Fire Chief Roy Grant said he believed that various materials were exploding beneath the surface of the trash mound, leading to fires that eventually broke out on the surface.  

“There is a situation of spontaneous combustion taking place down there, and it could flare up at any time,” Mr. Grant said. “I don’t think this will be the last one to see. It’s a battle, and we are doing the best we can under the circumstances.”  

Less than two weeks later, on Aug. 16, fire broke out again at the landfill.  

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Fire crews doused Sunday’s surface fire at the landfill but weren’t certain if anything was burning underneath. – Photos: Taneos Ramsay
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  1. I’m sure this will pass mostly unnoticed because people are used to it now and know that nothing is going to be done with it anytime soon. Cayman is stuck with Mt Trashmore, it’s a true monument to the Cayman way of doing things and it sits proudly over the landscape for all to view and remember the scenery as they fly or sail away..

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  2. Thank God they didn’t move it to Bodden Town. It would be burning from there. Best thing to do is recycle and give away trash to whoever wants it.
    Did anyone check and see if anyone needs garbage for their waste to energy plant? Latin America is growing very fast , they might just want it for the future.

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  3. David Miller, that’s probably the worst reasoning ever presented for not moving the dump to Bodden Town. First of all the reason it catches fire so often is because it’s an improperly managed dump with 50 years of buildup. Properly managed dumps don’t catch fire every few months. If a new dump were opened in BT, it would be properly managed from the beginning and even if it did develop problems it would likely be decades into the future, just like Mt. Trashmore is now. We wouldn’t all of a sudden move all the trash to Bodden town to start catching fire again. Mt. Trashmore was never intended to serve as a dump for an island of any sizable population and needs to be capped.

    Second, I don’t know why exactly it would be worse to burn from Bodden Town. Surely having a fire 15 miles southeast of the major population and tourist center of your country is preferable to having a garbage fire right in the center of it. Don’t say because the smoke would cover the entire island…that’s preposterous. It would effectively dissipate or blow off to sea within a few miles…the same way it does just after it crosses the seven mile strip.

    Nobody wants our trash…other people make plenty of it already.

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  4. A piece of advice Christoph, don’t waste your breath trying to explain the idea of building new Waste Management facility to any of the BoddenTownians and expect any of them to see it for what it is..

    Moving all of the trash from GeorgeTown to Bodden Town was never A part of that solution and they know it, they just like to use the picture of trucks upon trucks all full of trash just picking it up in GT and dumping it in BT and fire starting in that pile the very next day, because it paints a scary picture. It’s easier to lie and spread negative rumors to discredit solutions offered by people they do not support. No matter what solution the CIG pulls out of their hat for Mount Trashmore it will still be there until it’s put in the hands of someone more capable.

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  5. Oh don’t worry I’m fully aware it’s useless to try and explain that to someone deluded enough to believe it, especially if they do live in BT. I’m just trying to make sure no one else reading the comments sees something so wrong and believes the misinformation.

    I do sympathize with the NIMBY feelings of those who don’t want the dump in BT, but the least they can do is put forth a credible alternative. I think logistically it makes more sense for the dump to remain in GT to reduce the distance the trash has to be hauled, but the current facility is dangerous and needs to be remediated and capped, and I don’t know any other location in or near GT that would work.

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  6. I’m sorry Christoph , I disagree. You would too If you lived anywhere near any landfill that would be proposed near your residence . I don’t live in Bodden town. I live in GT. But the landfill was always in GT. It should be MANAGED where it is. Maybe if it was managed properly people would feel it could be moved. I have not found any large amount of landfill sites that are not failing around the world . It frightens me to hear your second point. A fire from the proposed WMF east of Midland land acres is a residential subdivision. In a NE wind would blow toxic fumes through Pease Bay, Bodden Town, Northward, Pedro ,Lower Valley, Savannah, Spotts Newlands, Red Bay, Crewe Road And South Sound. I live on South Church Street in GT I didn’t smell any smoke. Did you smell any smoke in town? I work on the Royal Watler not their either.These areas to the east of town have families and schools.
    There is a very small area maybe a square mile that smelled that smoke. A big difference from Bodden Town.
    Do you know for sure that another country wouldn’t buy our Garbage? How? Did you or someone ask?
    Mr. Christoph we don’t have to move it anywhere except where it is. You and Mr. Davis have said more then once that A properly managed Waste Managed Facility can be built in BT Well build it where it is George Town.
    It was built there because that was where most of the garbage came from (George Town). We have the largest population , most of the noise is in town, its shorter distance for the garbage trucks and dumpster trucks, etc.,etc.,etc.
    Have a nice evening gentlemen

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  7. @David, I do agree with you that it would be best to build a state of the Art WTM Facility on site in GT. The problem with that is as we were already informed there is no room there for the new facilities, we have also been told that the solution they come up with would most likely need to include another site because of this, then there’s that white elephant in the room that everyone is ignoring. Where will the more than 100 million dollars it will cost to do it come from. Just remember this will be built and managed by the CIG who managed and built the university size high schools, that cost twice as much as was estimated and nearly bankrupted the country, great decision that was while the college sits there falling apart. As far as the Bodden Town offer. I was actually partial to the Dart Offer simply because I personally felt that a solution to the garbage issues would have a better chance of materializing if it been put in Darts hands to do. And I think the last thing Caymans needs is to add over a hundred million dollars more to it’s already mounting debt. I also don’t believe for a minute that anyone is going to come and foot the bill unless everyone is faced with huge garbage fees for pickup and drop off and a CUC like monolopy which will lead to a lot more illegal dumping.

    Well anyway, people have gotten what the wanted there will be no Waste Management Facility built in BT, no CAP for the GT Dump and all this would have been done at no cost to the taxpayers. Instead what we have for years maybe decades to come is our National Treasure ‘Mount Trashmore’ for all to look upon on awe and be proud of.

    Take a look at this and then think of what visitors think when they arrive and see that mountain of uncovered trash.

    http://www.panoramio.com/photo/3625061

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  8. Nice shot Michael. Welcome to Paradise!

    It is like having a nice dinner at Blue next to a pile of you know what that is hidden behind an artsy screen and pretending it is not there.

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