Similar observations are made about landfills on the Sister Islands, with problems varying according to the relatively small size of the sites.
The report by U.K. consultants Amec Foster Wheeler — dated Aug. 3, but “dumped” on the country on Friday afternoon, in the “blind spot” of the news cycle — builds upon and largely supports the work performed by previous consultants in years past. The new report is the most detailed exposition yet of recurring themes in Cayman Islands solid waste management.
For example, according to consultants, the George Town landfill is an unlined, un-engineered eyesore that has become “the highest point on Grand Cayman and is visible from a considerable distance,” including “to cruise ships moored offshore.”
Workers and visitors to the landfill site are at risk of exposure to arsenic in soils, hydrogen sulfide (a noxious and potentially deadly gas), methane (a potentially explosive gas) and hydrocarbons (i.e. oil).
While nearby residents do face potential risks from landfill gases, including methane, the more serious threats occur when the landfill catches on fire, which has occurred five times in the past two years. On an ongoing basis, nearby residents must deal with dust from the landfill, bad odors, and various “scavenging” animals, birds and insects for which the landfill is their food source, habitat and/or breeding ground.
The landfill is a potentially significant source of pollution to nearby bodies of water — including groundwater, surface canals and the North Sound. In regard to North Sound specifically, the landfill is a source of ammonia and metals, and poses a threat to the North Sound ecology by way of “potentially contaminated sediments in the canal.”
(As a side note, which raises questions in our minds, tucked away in the Amec report is the observation that neither the Department of Environmental Health nor the Department of Environment has been monitoring water quality data for surface water, groundwater for the North Sound since 2013, although they were able to provide more-or-less annual data for the period from 2006 to 2013, when the Progressives government assumed power.)
To our readers who have been paying attention to the years-long saga of the landfill, the problems identified in the Amec report no doubt seem familiar. Likewise, so should the solutions the consultants propose.
Namely, consultants recommend that the government cover the exposed portions of the landfill on a daily basis, and ultimately “cap” the areas when they are completed, in order to reduce noxious odors, the presence of pests, the potential for leaching and the threat of fires.
That, of course, is precisely what the Dart Group had offered to do — not to mention establishing a brand-new facility in a relatively remote area of the island — and what the ultimately successful Progressives candidates explicitly campaigned against doing in 2013, saying they had an alternative solution in their back pocket.
There was a campaign slogan (“No Dump in Bodden Town”) and a campaign promise (“We have a solution”) — but there was never a plan.
No one, we would posit, voted for the current government on the understanding that their “plan” consisted of commissioning more reports, hiring more consultants, and taking more “field trips” to better educate themselves on the intricacies of solid waste management.
In large measure, they came into office in 2013 on the basis of a promise. The question now is whether they leave office in 2017 — on the basis of a promise unfulfilled.