Landfill conundrum: ‘Location, location, location’

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.

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  1. What is planned for recycling ? Is it cans, bottles, yard waste, and cardboard. No old cars or other bulk items. I can’t see that if old cars and bulk items are not going to be recycled would reduce the dump by 85%. How much items that would be recycled, would it take to make the volume of space of one old car. The solution to the dump, sounds like a incompatent doctor talking about treating a disease but is waiting till it kill the person.

  2. How incredibly short-sighted to exclude any other location for the George Town dump than where it is right now! Is the view of an oft-smouldering dump and its stench what the CI Government wants to offer the mega cuise-ship visits they’re angling for with the possible wreck of Hog Sty Bay as a deep-sea platform for the big cruise ships? And what about Mini Mr. Trashmore on the Brac? It lies on the land there like a terrible curse. Surely something can be done to ameliorate both dumps on both islands? Am in agreement with Herb Neely who suggests to just let the GC dump catch on fire again a couple more times!

  3. Herb, I got the joke 🙂

    I really don’t think it matters where the landfill is located as long as there is a plan in place to properly manage it. It’s quite obvious the current location is past the point of no return. Heck it’s not even a landfill, it’s just a piece of land where we dump garbage. If there was another suitable empty piece of land in or near the current site which could be properly lined and managed in order to cap the current toxic waste dump, then I’m sure most would agree that’s the best place for it. The fact is there is not another empty patch of land close by, so alternatives must be found.

  4. The problem is not the dump, it’s management. Elected officials over the dump seeking a solution that doesn’t align with their own self interest. I suppose that would be difficult. The revenue opportunities are endless with every piece of trash in that dump. You have a product delivered to a specific location, all you have to do is sort it and find a market for it. This is not an overnight fix. Take one small piece of the landfill and work that area and move on to the next. Eventually you will see progress being made. Glass, plastic, rubber, steel, yard waste, C&D, used cooking oil and motor oil all have markets. Burn the medical waste and any non marketable items with an eco friendly incinerator. There you have it…. Rocket science

  5. I asked this before and I’ll ask it again. What happened the solution Ozzie and Alden said they had during the last election. I remember his word clearly, "We already have a viable solution to fix the GT dump on Site and there will be no Dump in Bodden Town" Well I guess they did keep one of those promises. But the other was obviously a bold faced lie spoken directly to the people that vote for them, let’s see who actually remembers that during the silly season. It seems to me that they spent this whole time hoping for miracle and looking for a solution which they still don’t have.

  6. Part of the public’s concern is based upon the historical and current dump management or mismanagement.

    The people of Boddentown or anywhere else don’t want to transfer the dump problem into their districts. You really cannot fault them for this valid concern.

    Until government can show the public that they are able to professionally manage a landfill and recycling facility this project will remain stuck.

    Turning the professional management of a landfill and recycling facility over to an experienced company with a proven track record for a 10 year contract to train local people during that time.

  7. It sure is nice of the Compass to finally admit that the Dart proposal was " to close and cap the existing George Town Landfill and create a new landfill in the district of Bodden Town". In the run up to the 2013 General Elections the PPM candidates and Bodden Town residents were constantly being told that no Dump /Landfill was being put in Bodden Town.

  8. With the prevailing winds coming from the East towards the West it would seem to make better sense to put the landfill on the West side of the island.

    Then smells would head out to sea.

    The bypass already goes from George Town towards the West. Perhaps it could be put on one of the large vacant parcels of in that direction.

    Some people seem to think that there is some value in all this trash. There really isn’t. While it certainly makes sense to separate and re-cycle glass and aluminum, the rest of it is just trash.

    Dug up from the ground, converted into products, either from metal ore, trees or oil, and dumped back in the ground again.

  9. @Leon Dart proposal stated from the start that their plan was to CAP and Close the GT Landfill and built a new site in BoddenTown. The difference would that the new site would be built correctly and properly lined. People can twist this offer around a hundred ways but he fact remains that it was a good offer for the country which would have saving us around 100 Million Dollars that could have been put to good use, However it should be clear now that the PPM blew it of for the BoddenTown vote when they had no other realistic options, all to win the election nothing more nothing less.

    Eventually a new site will have to be identified, purchased and built on the taxpayer dime anyway.

    Their tow biggest promises were to get West Bay Road reopened and that there will be no dump in BoddenTown. We we know what happened with West Bay road, and there is no dump in Boddentown, although now everyone on the island including the Boddentownians will have to deal with the health risks of the still growing dump as well as bare the cost of trying to find a new solution then developing it.

    Good Luck Cayman I trust you all have full confidence in your leaders or you wouldn’t vote the same ones in over and over again.

  10. It would be nice if someone actually showed what a state of the art landfill looked like. They are nothing anyone has imagined! They do not smell. There are no birds. There is nothing you can see from the road.

    Why doesn’t Govt spend some time educating people.