Contrary to statements made by government employees last fall, Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said Friday that the George Town landfill never actually stopped receiving derelict vehicles at any time during the past year.
“There has been no stoppage in [sending] derelict vehicles into the George Town landfill … particularly where the vehicles pose a traffic or public health concern,” Mr. Seymour said.
Collection of vehicles and other scrap metal was “curtailed,” according to a government press release issued in November.
“We have not completely stopped the collection of scrap metals and derelict vehicles but have reduced the quantities going to the landfill until we can safely stack the metals and prepare another area for the safe storage of the derelict vehicles,” said Department of Environmental Health Director Roydell Carter in the release.
Minister Seymour’s Friday statement was met with some incredulity by opposition lawmakers, who said they were aware of situations where residents from their districts had attempted to drop off junked cars at the landfill and had been turned away.
“I’m not 100-percent convinced that all is well,” said Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo.
East End MLA Arden McLean said that while local police have done their job in reporting derelict vehicles along the roadsides and in neighborhoods, the Department of Environmental Health is not following up and removing vehicles that have been “tagged.”
“I’ll take you to East End right now and show you,” Mr. McLean said. “Nobody moves [the derelict vehicle], nobody supervises it and nobody removes it.”
Mr. Seymour said he was aware that the vehicle “tagging” system was not working as intended and that these vehicles were not being removed in a timely manner.
“I’ve gotten a lot of calls about vehicles that have been removed over the past few months where vehicles have been removed where people were storing stuff in them,” Mr. Seymour said. “They’ve been tagged and [the owner] allowed it to stay there … and they don’t do anything about it. They don’t do what they need to do to rescue the car.”
Since October, Minister Seymour said the landfill had received 199 derelict cars from around Grand Cayman. He said the ultimate plan with those vehicles was to bale them into scrap and send them overseas for recycling.
The landfill is experiencing challenges with “metal overstock” and at present it simply doesn’t have enough space to keep all the derelict cars on the property, Mr. Seymour said.
However, Mr. Seymour said the tire shredding project under way at the landfill would be completed within the next month and he said the Department of Environmental Health would be able to use that processing area to store derelict vehicles.
The scrap metal baling program is part of the redesigned landfill now being negotiated between the Cayman Islands government at the Decco Consortium, Mr. Seymour said.
That negotiation, which includes a waste-to-energy option and recycling centers, is still under discussion and no contract for the project has been approved.
Mr. Seymour said the contract talks were expected to take until the end of this year.
“I understand the frustration that some members of the public have expressed concerning the pace of these negotiations,” Mr. Seymour said during a statement to the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. “Yet I must point out that we are obligated to ensure that the government and people of the Cayman Islands receive the best possible value for money, and will take every step necessary to do this.”
The approval of a new waste management facility is contingent upon the completion of an environmental impact assessment, which will be subject to public review.
The times and dates for those public meetings would be released as soon as they are confirmed, the minister said.