After years of anxiety (and for this newspaper, reporting and editorializing) over what the Cayman Islands is going to do about the hulking health hazard known as the George Town landfill, residents can finally rest easy: The government has reached an agreement with the Dart Group.
Government officials – particularly Premier Alden McLaughlin, Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn and Senior Project Manager Jim Schubert – deserve recognition for their navigation and negotiation of this complex and important issue.
A consortium led by Dart’s engineering arm, DECCO, beat out six competitors for the contract, which includes waste-to-energy, recycling and composting facilities that are expected to divert up to 95 percent of waste that currently goes into the landfill. The relatively small remaining amount of trash will be interred in a much smaller lined landfill site, to be located near or within the perimeter of the existing dump.
As for “Mount Trashmore,” the goal is to transform it – and also the dump sites on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman – into green spaces (i.e., grass-covered public parks). In the future, waste from the Sister Islands will be brought over by barge to the new facility on Grand Cayman.
Dart is both the obvious and the natural choice to close, cap and remediate the noxious George Town dump; to build a modern waste management facility; and further, to see that it is operated in an effective manner for the next 25 years.
Dart has the means, and as the troublesome dump’s immediate neighbor, the motivation to see that the project is executed properly. The company, of course, also has a sterling track record.
Any major project – for example, building hotels, creating commercial centers, building highways or fixing a dump – gives rise to a number of questions concerning matters such as financing, intent, expertise, commitment and vision.
Who’s going to pay for this? Where is the money coming from? Do they have a long-term plan? Can they execute at the highest standards of excellence?
For the past decade in Cayman, those questions have been answered time and again with a single syllable: “Dart.”
Our government and our country cannot and should not rely on any single private sector entity, including Dart, to ride to the rescue every time Cayman confronts a major issue or problem. That being said, when it comes to the landfill, we can think of no better steward than Dart. To quote L. Bell, a frequent commentator to our website (www.caymancompass.com), “Finally! No one can do it better!”
Solid waste management is a complex issue – far too complicated to be adjudged during casual conversations along the marl road … or even on the opinion pages of this newspaper. We can, however, express our full confidence in Dart to see this project through to completion and satisfaction.
Although the players are similar, the new deal between government and Dart is in one respect different from – and in our view, superior to – the arrangement between government and Dart that the Progressives threw out after being elected in 2013.
Under the previous deal, Dart would have remediated the landfill and built a new landfill (in east Bodden Town), but after that would have walked away. Under the new deal, Dart has agreed to fix the landfill, build a new landfill (in George Town) and – importantly – commit to operating the new facility for 25 years. They are in it for the long haul.
Years ago, the members of the Compass Editorial Board met with top-level executives from Dart for an “on-background” conversation about issues related to the landfill. During the meeting, the question was posed: At what point will we know that Cayman has solved the problem of solid waste?
Our response is this: We can declare victory when the first blade of grass, on the top of Mount Trashmore, pushes its way out of the ground, toward the heavens.