Lack of new landfill raising questions about waste management

The failure to identify a new site for a landfill in Grand Cayman undermines government’s attempts to develop a long-term waste management strategy, critics have warned. 

Walling Whittaker, a former director of environmental health for the Cayman Islands, said the absence of any plan for a landfill was the “elephant in the room,” following the release of the long-term National Solid Waste Management Strategy for public consultation. 

“It makes something of a mockery of the idea of a 50-year plan if you don’t identify a site for landfill,” said Mr. Whittaker, who was a candidate for the United Democratic Party at the last election. 

“There is no real scope to expand the George Town facility. Even with maximum recycling, they are delaying the inevitable and kicking the can down the road.” 

The strategy, produced by AMEC Foster-Wheeler, suggests the landfill will reach capacity in 2021, though it predicts this can be extended through greater use of recycling, composting and the introduction of a waste-to-energy facility. The consultants were specifically asked not to consider alternative landfill sites as part of their plan. 

Martin Edelenbos, engineering coordinator of waste management for Dart Realty, believes that was a mistake. He said, “The decision to focus on the George Town site as the only disposal location for Grand Cayman contradicts all previous work done on this subject and is not conducive to establishing an environmentally sound, long-term and sustainable National Solid Waste Management Strategy.” 

Mr. Edelenbos welcomed the strategies outlined in the consultant’s report to “reduce, reuse and recycle,” but warned they would not eliminate the need for a new landfill site. “Regardless of any other waste diversion methods or waste-to-energy, there will always be a need for landfill. An environmentally sound disposal facility must be the foundation of an integrated solid waste management strategy. 

“Dart Realty encourages government to acknowledge this and to immediately start developing a site selection process for a new integrated waste management facility.” 

Both Mr. Whittaker and Mr. Edelenbos, also a former assistant director of environmental health, warn that site selection and development could take several years and therefore should begin immediately. Mr. Whittaker said delaying the decision risked allowing it to reach a “crisis point.” 

Jim Schubert, government’s senior project manager for waste management, acknowledged that a new landfill site would be required at some stage. 

But, he said, this could be “somewhere well into the future.” He added, “A key focus will be extending the lifespan of the George Town landfill for as long as is prudently and pragmatically possible, and options being examined include landfill mining and the potential for relocating non-landfill waste management activities and facilities on the site. 

“The early diversion of waste away from the landfill through waste reduction, reuse and expanded recycling and yard waste composting will divert significant quantities from the landfill, which will also extend the life of the landfill site.” He said the introduction of a waste-to-energy plant would significantly reduce the amount of waste going into landfill. 

A new landfill site would need to be specifically engineered to principally accept ash residue from the waste-to-energy process, he added. 

Mr. Schubert acknowledged that no sites had been identified for any of the facilities, including landfill, but said this would be part of the Outline Business Case development. 

In its submission to government during the consultation process on the AMEC report, Dart warned that the costs of waste to energy will likely outweigh the potential revenues from electricity produced. Though Dart has indicated support for the technology as a way to reduce the amount of waste going into a landfill, it cautions, “The notion that the waste mound is a source of free energy is a fallacy.” 

The George Town landfill is expected to reach capacity in 2021, though consultants say its life span could be expanded through recycling, composting and a waste-to-energy facility.

The George Town landfill is expected to reach capacity in 2021, though consultants say its life span could be expanded through recycling, composting and a waste-to-energy facility. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY
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  1. Is it fair to say that the "critics" referenced in this article are Mr. Walling Whittaker and Mr. Martin Edelenbos? If so, can you say if any of these individuals might have any reason to be anything but 100% objective in their assessment of the situation?

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  2. This is an ugly political face that will not go away until the changing of Guards in 2017.
    So everyone might as well sit back relax and wait until then.

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  3. Dart is completely wrong in his comment "The notion that the waste mound is a source of free energy is a fallacy." Waste to Energy bi-products are free electricity, bio diesel and charcoal fertilizer from the ash residue.

    The landfill reached a "crisis point" back in 1998 as it was only designed for 15 years because government decided back in 1983 not to install a liner systems to protect the environment. In our report back in 1998 we found the leachate from the landfill escaping into ground waters and even the deep wells were contaminated. The toxins found in these samples will have long term effects such as certain types of cancer from exposure to these polluted waters.

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  4. It is incomprehensible how such a teeny tiny country with population just under 60,000 has amassed such humongous problems for which it has no solutions in sight.It seems that the rest of the world has figured it out long time ago, even Bermuda which territory wise several times smaller. Be careful, vouching for waste to energy solutions.Burning waste produce significant amounts of dioxin and furan emissions to the atmosphere. Dioxins and furans are considered to be serious health hazards. It is obvious that this country has no resources for the most efficient technology that exists that captures dioxins and furans. It has no regulations in place and enforcing mechanism is not existent. Separating hazardous waste from the existing Dump is practically impossible and extremely hazardous.
    It is impossible to understand how and why someone would embrace berthing facilities project before solving the most embarrassing, the most health hazardous problem this country is facing. Each and every visitor, by cruise or air, contributes to the growth of the landfill.

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  5. I am about sick of reading all these reports, Everyone including these consultants and the people that hired them to write reports that say what they want them to say know that Mount Trashmore is a bomb waiting to explode, they know it’s a health hazard, they know it can’t be fixed on site, they know the CIG doesn’t have the funding to do it themselves, they know Dart would have done it right and paid for it, they also know that the only reason we are still dealing with this national disaster is that the leaders of Cayman decided that winning the BT Vote was more important than the health and well being of the entire islands population.

    Many think these guys don’t know anything, they know exactly what they are doing.

    Ms Vargus, hit it right on the nose, we all should know by now that nothing will happen till the silly season starts and then all the new false promises will be put on the table.

    And everyone will believe them and cast their votes based on what people say not what they actually do or have done.

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  6. Our leaders are betting our kids future. When the country gets so polluted that no one wants to live here, we will pay for their incompetence. There are a number of workable solutions but it takes education. Bermuda’s incinerator is in a beautiful residential neighborhood. It can be done. But our leaders are too chicken to decide anything more than what they want for dinner.

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  7. It is really interesting that Walling Whittaker finally has the answer to Grand Cayman’s landfill problem;when he was in charge of it ,he did not have any answers.Also,as a member of the opposition party, can we really expect an unbiased opinion from him.It is also good to see someone from the Dart group confirm what many Caymanians, particularly Bodden Towners and their PPM candidates believed.Namely that a landfill was needed if the GT landfill was capped by Dart,and many believed that is exactly what they would have gotten at the Midland Acres site.Secondly they were concerned that if Dart was not providing a landfill site (at Midland Acres or elsewhere) as a part of the then deal, then the deal was not a fair one.

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