For any readers who may have been off-island, in hibernation or otherwise blissfully unaware of Grand Cayman’s months-long garbage woes, allow us to set the scene:
- Inconsistent trash collection since at least the beginning of the year.
- Growing piles of trash, marring our neighborhoods, attracting pests and festering in the sun and rain – sometimes for weeks.
- Fed-up residents driving to the George Town landfill, to drop off their rubbish in piles that have overflowed into the car park.
- And, finally, an inexcusable failure to cart off the tons of trash collected by hundreds of volunteers participating in Earth Day cleanup activities around the island.
At the center of this sorry saga, there have been two key questions:
Question 1: When are they going to collect the garbage?
Question 2: Where is Roydell Carter, the director of the Department of Environmental Health?
Public concerns about Grand Cayman’s trash problem grew to such a level that Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, the country’s highest-ranking civil servant, felt it necessary to roll up his own sleeves and get his hands dirty. The deputy governor’s personal intervention is a welcome development.
His Wednesday statement suitably contained the requisite apologies (“I am sorry that our waste collection team has failed to reliably and effectively manage waste collection”) and assurances (“As the Deputy Governor and Head of the Civil Service, I offer no excuses, only a firm commitment that the civil service is focused on correcting the failure and restoring the public’s confidence.”).
The statement did not, however, include any mention of DEH Director Carter, who has managerial responsibility for garbage collection and who apparently has been on unspecified “leave” since late last year.
As to the matter at hand, the deputy governor said the department has now caught up on its weekly residential waste collection and has taken proactive steps to “move toward a more stable footing,” including disciplining employees for poor performance and non-attendance, filling “mission-critical vacancies” through emergency appointments, and working with the Department of Vehicle and Equipment Services to minister to an “aged fleet” and effect a vehicle replacement strategy.
That all sounds good, but a fair question is why has it taken all these months to get to this “new beginning?”
In the grander scheme, there has been no word on when government expects officially to hand over solid waste and landfill responsibilities to Dart Enterprises – which was named the “winner” of a 25-year agreement back in October (seven months ago).
At the time, the tentative time line was for final negotiations, planning approvals and an “environmental impact assessment” – yes, on a landfill – to have proceeded to the point where construction of the new facility would commence this summer and be operational by 2021.
In our opinion (and, we imagine, the vast majority of Cayman’s), the sooner Dart takes over the dump, the better