The evidence – and the waste – pile up

The latest in a series of reports has been released on the conditions at the George Town landfill. Here’s the abbreviated version: It’s poisonous. It smells. And it’s ugly.

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.

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  1. What beats me is there should have been a EIA before they wanted to put a facility there. The facility would have been less then 2 miles away from the edge of Pease Bay and the most 3 miles from Bodden Town. The facility needs to be west as far west as it can be. So that when another fire starts up in the future it will not impact half of the islands people.
    The Central Mangrove is pushed by the National Trust and DOE as a place to be protected and pristine and then you want to stick a facility right next to Midland Acres a subdivision . Did you environmentalists know that? Why no protest or uproar about saving the swampland ? People are so bias its unbelievable.

    ***Editor’s Note: There was an Environmental Impact Assessment conducted on the proposed Bodden Town waste management facility. Here is a link to the report (PDF): ***

  2. @ David Miller

    The whole point of the proposal in Bodden Town is indicative in its name – Waste Management Facility. It will not be a carbon copy of the disaster we have in GT right now. The risk of fires, leaks, and various other issues stemming from the current dump will be greatly reduced. The environmental impact of building this facility at the proposed site is far less than the impact our current dump is having on the environment – read the study. The EIA was contracted by Dart, but CARDNO is a major industry leader and their reports should not be dismissed easily.

  3. @Steven, It doesn’t matter what the reports say those that that don’t want it in Boddentown will never agree to it being there even if it was the best solution for the nation, had no chance of hurting the environment and didn’t cost a penny. Everyone knows that it wasn’t going to just be a copy of Mount Trashmore yet those against it still try to make people think that the plans were to pile all the garbage in GT on trucks and just dump it in a pile in Boddentown.

    The fact that so many people think that it is better for an already cash strapped country to spend over 200 Million Dollars on trying to keep it in Georgetown is better than taking an offer from a private sector entity to do it at their own cost just shows the ability or lack there of to make choices that are in the best interest of Cayman as a whole. In a nutshell what was done here, was the PPM stopped a great deal for the country promising that they had a solution when none actually existed and the swept the whole issue under the rug till the next election.

    There’s not been a word about it since Ozzie was taken out of the picture, Alden took control of it and muzzled the whole situation. This actually worked out well for Ozzie who now has no explaining to do about it and while in Boddentown can enjoy the celebrity of being the one that saved BoddenTown from having to carry their share as GT has been doing for decades

    And the Dump grows on!!!!

  4. I stand corrected about there not being an EIA . I got my land after my father passed.I didn’t about the EIA. But what about the smampland ? Have environmentalists changed the law about protecting the Central Mangrove? If it’s a waste management facility that is going to be different and not catch fire again that is only one problem. They say in the EIA that it only got a life expectancy of 20 years then what? Will the cheapest land in Grand Cayman be another 100 acres of landfill again ? Then another 20 years? Something else has got to solve this problem. This is like putting a band aid on a broken leg. Because we don’t have money for a proper solution. That landfill should have been where it is now . Thats why it was put there to begin with (west). Bodden Town is the fastest growing district in Cayman. It will become the largest district in the future. Development is coming to Bodden Town and especially in Central Mangrove. No one told anybody to buy land near a landfill.

  5. @David. I hear you about the analogy of putting a band aid on a wound. However what happens if you don’t put a band Aid on a wound and just let it stew there years after year. It will eventually get infected and kill you.

    Personally I agree that the accepting the Dart offer may not have been the absolute best solution for Cayman. But it did have the best chance of actually happening, we all know that Dart would have done what was needed to clean that area up and make the view from Camana Bay better and then keep it that way. Hell why else would they be willing to pay for it. You don’t get something for nothing and Cayman would have gotten something out of that offer as well. A fresh start at no cost to the tax payers and then it would be up to them to do it right this time around. It’s not only about Dart’s view as people are trying to make it out to be, it’s about the view from the Air and the Sea that people see on their first approach to Cayman and well as their last view when leaving. It’s also about at the health and wellbeing of all of the island residents.

    Why is everyone neglecting to mention that they were also going to cap and cleanup the Georgetown dump which would have included all the tires, nothing from GT was being moved to BT. It would have basically been a savings of nearly 100 million dollars for the country with a fresh start on dealing with garbage.

    Dart offered to not only cap and cleanup the GT dump but also offered to bear the financial burden of the future maintenance of the site. In BT he offered to give the land to the CIG and build the first properly lines pit as well as an administration building. At which point it would have been turned over to the CIG which would have given them a fresh start at a new site without having to worry about the old site. All the CIG would have to do is do it right this time around. What Dart got out of it was a prettier view from his little city. So freaking what

    What the heck is so wrong with that ? Call it like it is, the only thing wrong with the whole thing was that the Boddentownians don’t want it in their backyard and that’s it.

    The PPM blew Dart off to please the Boddentownians and this won them the election.

    So what do we all have now as a country.


  6. @Michael if the dump is so bad where it is .Where is the guarantee that it won’t be bad in a new area? Wherever you put the new landfill ,you will see it from the air. Capping it will not stop it leaching it into the groundwater or the sea. All underground water will lead to the sea. The liner will eventually breakdown .when I go to Camana Bay I don’t see the landfill and I don’t smell the landfill . When it caught on fire ( types) of course was different. All the resident do not live by the dump. Trees are now grown high enough to hide the dump from the highway. Every island has a landfill.
    We need to recycle yesterday so that it doesn’t add anymore to the existing landfill. Why not offer private enterprise who are qualified to start recycling now? That would be a tremendous amount of garbage leaving Cayman. We can build a recycling station right there. We can also offer jobs to young people who could start breaking down the mountain and separate the materiel by machine and hand . It would be a win-win solution. Fix the problem there.

  7. @DavidMiller
    You can’t be serious with your arguments which basically translate- I don’t live by the Dump, I don’t see or smell it, therefore it doesn’t exist.
    Offer jobs to young people? You have got to be kidding. They are not that dumb to destroy their health for a pittance on something that they did not create in the first place. Why won’t you offer this kind of job to your kids. Make sure to provide a hazmat suit.
    By the way Bermuda doesn’t have a landfill. So not every island has a landfill.

  8. @David, What’s bad about the dump isn’t about where it is, it’s all about what it is and the condition it’s in and there is no guarantee that it wouldn’t go bad again at ta new site whether it be in BoddenTown, West Bay or East End. That would come down to how the new site would be managed and what policies and procedure are put in place such as recycle and reuse as you suggest however this would be the responsibility of the CIG to do. Even if all these new policies are put in place and actually followed that still doesn’t explain how the current pile of trash in GT is dealt with. What do you suggest is done there since you’re against capping it, even though all those high paid consultants recommend doing just that in addition to mentioning that a new site would have to be identified to expand the operation which is just what Dart offered to do at their own cost, and if you ask me yes I do believe that they want it out of their backyard because of the way it’s being ran and they were willing to pay for it to make it happen.

    As far as your suggestion of breaking down the mountain and separate the materiel by machine and hand. This has already been considered and proven that it could not be safely mined. Nor could the contents be burned and provide free electric for all. No matter what people may want to believe there is no gold buried in MT Trashmore some of the contents may be recyclable and sell-able but the cost of extracting those things would greatly outweigh whatever revenue the sale of them would bring in.

    By the way capping it correctly will control, limit and greatly decrease the amount of leachate making it into the North Sound. But yes as you state it may not stop it completely, what do you suggest be done here also ?

    Capping is done to Landfills all over the world successfully, turning some of the sites into parks and nature preserves.

    I am sorry but your argument just doesn’t convince me that we are better off now than we would have been if that deal was taken.

    I could be seeing it all wrong so I would like to hear your insight on what the better realistic option is and what will need to be done to make it happen as well as how it will be paid for.

  9. Here’s another news article about the recommendation of capping the dump.

    Every study cam to this same conclusion, So it has nothing to do with Dart’s offer was it has everything to do with who the offer came from and who was premier at the time.

    This whole fiasco is a perfect example of how people are willing to bite those nose of to spite their face.

    Simple explanation is that the PPM hates the UDP and we all know Alden hates Bush. So to allow anything he started to come to fruition doesn’t help the PPM cause. Like it or not the Shetty Hospital deal, the CEZ and The West Bay Road Deal both turned out to be beneficial to Cayman, the Dump deal would have also and this one in my opinion would have the most beneficial to us all.

  10. @Lucia my point exactly NO ONE wants to touch it without a HAZMAT suit . Because We don’t trust anyone working there now? So should BT trust anyone either? Because it’s going to be different? I got 11 kids and 14 grand kids. I wouldn’t want to leave that new ,old ,technological improve or anything else to anyone that can’t fix,maintain or solve what we got there now.
    @ Michael , I agree they can cap it . But it don’t guarantee anything built in a new area. If you cap it ,it will still leach out through the bottom and sides. We need to get qualified people who can get it move off island.
    As I said before we need to start recycling yesterday. We could create the stations right there. We should offer it out to private enterprise . Pick one that is really qualified so that we don’t get into this mess again.