James Schubert, Cayman’s solid waste management chief, was asked a direct question. He responded with a direct (and we would suggest, honest) answer.
The question (in essence): Is the current landfill site suitable for the future needs of Grand Cayman?
The answer: “There will be a point in the future where there will be a need for a new landfill … All landfills have finite lives.”
Dwell on that exchange for a moment. This is what it sounds like when an official starts talking truth and sense.
While sorting, recycling and incineration technology can extend the life span of a landfill by diverting and reducing the volume of material to be buried, even the most sophisticated methods available cannot eliminate entirely the need to entomb waste beneath the ground.
In the case of the George Town landfill, we’re rapidly running out of space. In the case of the Cayman Islands treasury, we’ve long ago run out of money for such projects.
The Progressives are well aware of these realities. After all, the 2008 report compiled by consultants Gershman, Brickner & Bratton during the previous PPM administration specifically stated that in order to build the proposed $100 million waste-to-energy facility, the government would need to acquire additional neighboring land from either the Water Authority or a private owner.
That point was further elaborated upon in the 2013 report by consultants Cardno Entrix for Dart, who estimated that in order to continue operating the George Town Landfill until the year 2035 “as is” — i.e., stacking waste 80 feet high into the air — the government would have to purchase some 31 acres of adjoining property.
For months, now extending into years, the Progressives-led government has been maintaining the opposite, namely that our landfill mess could be solved in situ, that is, where it lies.
Although it might seem like long-ago history, readers will recall that this government was formed in large measure because the Bodden Town contingent of four representatives found common cause with the George Town members based on the pledge “No Dump in Bodden Town.”
The cost of such political deal-doing was, at a minimum, $60 million, the approximate amount the Dart organization was prepared to spend to remediate the current site and establish a more modern facility (but still a landfill) on land it owned in Bodden Town.
Today we’ve got no $60 million, no new solid waste facility in Bodden Town (or anywhere else), multiple unpleasant memories of toxic fires, and a consulting contract to study the issue further.
The allegiance that was formed between the Bodden Towners and the George Town candidates (who, one would think, would be the most vociferous about removing the landfill from their district) had little to do with waste management and a lot to do with electoral arithmetic.
Not if, but when, the government finds itself again researching possible new sites for Grand Cayman’s waste management facility, the Compass’s stance will remain unchanged: Weigh all the options objectively according to the merits of the individual sites.
Of one thing we are confident: If Premier Alden McLaughlin can fulfill the promises he and his party made in the 2013 campaign, he most likely will progress from being Cayman’s “landfill landlord” to being handily re-elected in a “landfill landslide.”