As the waste has accumulated, lawmakers have filled the intervening years with voluminous, verbose (and expensive) reports, costly overseas visitations and public consultation ad nauseam. Not surprisingly, all have converged upon the obvious solution: The George Town landfill must be closed, and a new landfill must be created elsewhere — ideally far from the main thoroughfare into Seven Mile Beach or the downtown commercial and capital district.
The latest report, by U.K. consultant Amec Foster Wheeler, offers more of the same. According to consultants, even if the government spends tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions, of dollars on reduction, recycling and waste-to-energy measures — the George Town landfill will reach absolute maximum capacity in “a limited number of years” after the baseline scenario of 2021.
After that, guess what? A new landfill must be created elsewhere on the island.
Never during the half-century of Mount Trashmore’s existence has holding a round of “open house” consultation sessions ever been considered more than a preliminary and, yes, political, step in the search for a solution to Cayman’s solid waste problem. Yet, that is precisely what the current government is about to engage in. Again. Starting the week of Nov. 16.
We, of course, already know well the community’s opinion of the dump: It smells, it’s unsightly, and it’s most likely dangerous to our health. The public wants it fixed, and it wants this government to fix it.
In large measure, this Progressives government was elected on that singular campaign promise. It collectively declared that it had the solution to this menace in our midst — and it didn’t.
Some two-and-a-half years since their election, followed by a number of horrible landfill fires, the Progressives government has made progress, some of it cosmetic: They’ve cleaned up the site, brought in much-needed new equipment, and become far more adept in extinguishing fires when they spontaneously ignite.
We also welcome the recent hiring of Canadian engineer Mark Rowlands, an experienced waste management professional, as the new assistant director of the Department of Environmental Health, in charge of solid waste.
However, the Progressives have not advanced one practical inch toward actually getting rid of Mount Trashmore for good. They are still dilly-dallying with the millions of tires littering the landfill, apparently still viewing them as an asset, rather than a liability, on the balance sheet. Likewise, we’re now talking about “mining” the site as if our trash contains treasure that can be economically recovered and sold or converted to energy or whatever.
Frankly, we often drive by the landfill and, try as we may, it still doesn’t look like a gold mine to us. It looks like, well, a dump (and not a very good-looking dump at that).
As we move forward, it is instructive to recall the “NO DUMP IN BODDEN TOWN” campaign mantra since it remains a guiding (and inhibiting) principle in moving toward a country-wide waste-management solution.
Readers will recall that the Bodden Town candidates, and a small but vocal activist group, objected to the landfill in their district. At the time, the Progressives leadership desperately needed the support of the Bodden Town members in order to form a government, and they signed on to the very odd “ring-fencing” of Bodden Town as a dump-free district.
The consequence of this, of course, was that the Dart organization’s offer to pay for the new landfill in Bodden Town (about a $60 million commitment) was rejected by the Progressives government, and the deal died.
Viewed in that light, the rejection of the Dart offer appears to have been both politically opportunistic and remarkably cavalier.
Every report that comes out lacking an immediate action plan, every round of public consultation with no clear objective, and every “strategic” document that is produced without a corresponding and compelling plan for project financing is, in our opinion, just another means to delay, delay, delay, perhaps through the 2017 election.
In the meantime, the monster we colloquially call “Mount Trashmore” continues to grow.