Consultant: No quick fix to landfill leaching

Tests show nutrients impacting North Sound canal

Closing and capping large areas of the George Town Landfill will likely be the only way to lessen the potential environmental impact on the North Sound, according to consultants conducting tests at the site. 

Julian Bromhead, of consultants AMEC Foster Wheeler, said there was no quick and easy fix to the problem. 

Data collected previously from groundwater wells at the landfill shows that hazardous substances have not been detected in “significant concentrations,” Mr. Bromhead said during a press briefing Monday. 

However, the preliminary results show that some nutrients are leaching out of the landfill and impacting a canal which leads to the sound. The latest round of tests being carried out by the consultants will enable engineers to establish how far-reaching that impact is. 

“There are some nutrients detected, particularly nitrogen and phosphorous, which are being leached from the landfill into groundwater and surface waters and they have a local impact at the canal mouth around the canal entry to North Sound,” said Mr. Bromhead. 

“There have been increased levels of chlorophyll and algae at that location. We need to see what the new data is showing in terms of the dispersal of those nutrients out into the wider North Sound, which we will get from this data,” he said. 

He said the investigations were designed to assist in looking at what needed to be done to close and cap parts of the site, which he said was the only way to remediate the impact from the unlined landfill. 

“Ultimately, it is about looking at closing and capping the landfill site to limit the leaching of further nutrients from the site,” he said. 

Premier Alden McLaughlin said large areas of the landfill were already “essentially closed” in terms of adding new waste. He said it was these areas that could be capped. 

He said his Progressives party stands by their decision to base future landfill operations at the George Town site, though he said the amount of waste going into the landfill would have to be significantly reduced. 

He acknowledged other parts of the waste management infrastructure, such as composting or recycling plants, could be located elsewhere.  

“A big part of the strategy has to be reducing what goes into the landfill. Boosting composting is a quick win. We can move that off site and significantly reduce what gets put into the landfill while we examining recommendations about what else we can do on that site,” Mr. McLaughlin said. 

Jennifer Ahearn, the chief officer in the Ministry of Health, which has responsibility for the landfill, said the consultant’s draft national strategy assessing potential options, including recycling and waste-to-energy technology, is now expected at the end of May, when it will go out to public consultation. 

Following that process, an outline business case will be produced by the end of the year with government expecting to go out to tender in early 2016 for various parts of the new waste management infrastructure. Mr. McLaughlin said the high cost of the project meant it would need to be a public-private partnership. 

Consultants are inspecting the George Town Landfill. – PHOTO: CHRIS COURT


  1. Here we Go Round the famous Caymanian Dump, the famous Caymanian Dump the famous Caymanian Dump, on a hot and humid morning.

  2. Well that certainly seems like money well spent. We now know what needs to be done to the pile of garbage in Georgetown. Too bad no one else came up with the idea of capping it, if so we may have saved a lot of money spent on consultants. I am however sure that they will be delivering plenty of what we already know over the remainder of their pricey contract. I can only imagine how much the CIG will eventually pay to cap it and how it will look.

  3. Although the story does touch on the point of finding ways to reduce what is put into the landfill, it really does not provide any further discussion on possible solutions to achieving this. How about this thought.
    What Cayman really needs is a proactive voice to promte recycling and reducing what is disposed of. Here is a possible new business idea to contemplate – why doesn’t a caymanian business owner start a recycling business program that is partially funded by the Cayman Government with additional funding from local businesses who participate (such as hotels, resturants, etc…) In exchange for participating in this service, local business could receive a smal tax incentive on goods and services and/or permit fees paid for to compensate for investing in a programs such as this. When you provide a financial benefit to an issue, it is usually easier to convince people to support the concept since it affects not only their heart, but their pocket book.

    This company could offer services to go around to the various businesses and pick up the items to be recycled and transport them to a recycling facility to be processed. This would not only add jobs to the economy, encourage businesses to participate in the program as there is a financial incentive to do so, reduce the waste sent to the landfill reducing costs associated with expanding the dump and hopefully reduce the damage being caused to the environment along with the smell (which is sometimes beyond awful depending on how the wind blows).

    Even if it doesn’t work, at least let’s start the brainstorming process to finding other solutions to fix the existing problem, whcih is what we need the government leaders to start doing.

  4. People on this island thought about sending garbage out of this island years ago( recyclable materials ).These are not new ideas. When Ezzard was Health Minister I mentioned it briefly , He said he tried like he’s been trying to get many things done in Gov’t . But unfortunately he is always countered by other members to maintain the status quo. Remember he was trying to put the hospital by Triple C school across on Fairbanks rd. Instead they put the women prison and Cuban tent city( immigration prison). Well, what about that 40 million that the UK sent for environmental issues? This sounds like a good thing to use it on.