Operations at the landfill have improved, preventing fires and making the area safer, the director of Environmental Health told the Finance Committee in Legislative Assembly last week.

The landfill had been plagued by fires, started in underground air pockets in the growing mound of waste, with at least five fires between late 2013 and early 2015. DEH head Roydell Carter said his department has changed the way it manages the landfill to make sure the waste is compacted and covered regularly.

“We now have equipment that works,” he said, including a new compactor that gives landfill crews the right machinery to make sure they can eliminate air pockets in the dump that can cause fires.

Landfill fires can occur when waste is not properly covered and compacted. The decomposing material creates heat in the pockets and can spontaneously combust.

“We have had no major fires at all at the landfill for quite some time,” Mr. Carter said. The last major fire at the landfill was in March 2015, which firefighters were able to extinguish that same day.

He told members of the Legislative Assembly, prompted by questions during the budget debate, that his staff has a new management plan for filling the landfill that reduces the area on the dump that was actively being used and ensures that the rest of the area is covered. The budget sets aside more than $9 million to address long-standing issues with the dump and begin implementing parts of the solid waste management plan, delivered last year.

Consultants last year said the landfill will reach capacity by 2021. To extend the useful life of the landfill and manage the country’s solid waste after it reaches capacity, the consultants said Cayman should use a number of strategies to increase recycling and incinerate waste in a waste-to-energy power plant.

The report, release in October 2015, states, “This will produce green energy for use on the Cayman Islands and reduce dependence on electricity derived from fossil fuels.”

The new budget calls for $1.6 million to be drawn from the Environmental Protection Fund to pay to remove the growing mound of tires from the dump, a contract that Premier Alden McLaughlin said had been awarded to Island Recycling.

The budget also puts $1.5 million to building a new household recycling center and $6.5 million to buy land for new solid waste facilities.

Mr. Carter told the Legislative Assembly that DEH staff had also cleaned up the main recycling area in the George Town landfill. He said the department has also received positive feedback on the new household recycling stations set up outside six grocery stores.

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