In irony almost beyond words (but not quite), the government’s “solution” to the George Town dump site is to make it permanent.
Astonishingly, the government has limited even its own solid waste consultants to fashioning solutions to our decades-old dump problem by excluding any alternative sites. Any elected member (especially those representing George Town) who supports this in situ approach needs to justify his position to the voters as the May 2017 elections approach.
Consider the following statement: “It makes something of a mockery of the idea of a 50-year plan if you don’t identify a site for landfill … 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 above statement wasn’t written by the Compass Editorial Board. It was uttered by former Department of Environmental Health Director Walling Whittaker, who ought to know about such things.
Now, consider this: “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.”
Again, not the Compass. Those words were spoken by Martin Edelenbos, who is engineering coordinator of waste management for Dart Realty and a former assistant director of the Department of Environmental Health.
While no one can legitimately question the professional expertise of Mr. Whittaker and Mr. Edelenbos, some readers might point out that Mr. Whittaker ran as a candidate under the United Democratic Party banner in the last election and had also been hired by the Dart Group to assist with the proposal to close and cap the existing George Town Landfill and create a new landfill in the district of Bodden Town. Meanwhile, Mr. Edelenbos, of course, still works for Dart.
We consider those entries on their CVs to be qualifications, not disqualifications.
Meanwhile, on the current government’s side, senior project manager for waste management Jim Schubert said, “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.”
That’s what the people are saying. How about the numbers?
Government consultants estimate that the landfill will reach maximum capacity in mid-2021. Mr. Schubert hopes the implementation of recycling, diversion and waste-to-energy can reduce the amount of garbage going to the dump by 85 percent – which would, in theory, extend the lifespan of the landfill by more than six times over.
The key word in the previous sentence is “hopes.” Does anyone (with the exclusion of Gamblers Anonymous members who are drawn to long shots) want to bet on Mr. Schubert’s numbers?
According even to government consultants, the “quickest” projects, such as recycling, wouldn’t go into effect until 2016 or 2017, and the most impactful projects, such as waste-to-energy, wouldn’t come about until 2019 or 2020.
In other words, even if things were to go exactly according to design, there wouldn’t be much lifespan at the dump left to extend. And, after spending tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars, Grand Cayman would still need a new landfill.
The time has long passed to address seriously Cayman’s No. 1 environmental issue. Policy should not be guided by slogans (“No dump in Bodden Town”) but by courageous politicians with the fortitude to tell their constituents the truth.
And the truth is that in all likelihood, the landfill cannot (and certainly should not) remain in its current location.
Messrs. Whittaker and Edelenbos are correct. It’s time to identify and procure the land for the future home of our overflowing landfill.