Brac incinerator fixed, but George Town’s now broken

The Cayman Brac landfill incinerator, pictured above, does not have a scrubber or other air-pollution controls. Neither does the incinerator at the George Town landfill. - Photo: Ken Silva

The incinerator at the Cayman Brac landfill is back up and running after being in disrepair for nearly four months – a situation that led to untreated medical waste being dumped in an open trench there, in violation of public health regulations.

However, the incinerator at the George Town landfill is now broken, according to the Department of Environmental Health. But unlike on the Brac, medical waste is being stored on roll-off containers instead of being dumped untreated.

Internal correspondence obtained via an open records request details the Department of Environmental Health’s struggles to keep both incinerators running over the last several months.

After the Brac incinerator broke down in April, a technician was sent there on April 24, according to emails between department officials.

“Unfortunately he could not repair the unit because two major parts of the incinerator is burnt. He told me that he will source them from overseas and notify us on the cost,” states an April 25 email from Patience Eke, the environmental health officer for the Sister Islands. “Sadly, we have to start disposing of the medical waste into the trench again.”

When the Compass published a story on May 7 about untreated medical waste being dumped at the Brac landfill, Health Ministry officials began pressing the matter. Health Ministry Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn sent an email to various ministry and department officials, telling them to “get a proposed plan together asap” so it can be communicated to the public.

Jim Schubert, a senior project manager for the Public Works Department, suggested that the medical waste be transported on a barge from the Brac to Grand Cayman, where it would be incinerated at the George Town landfill. But Ms. Eke cautioned that the medical waste would have to be transported with food and other household items.

“For [Department of Environmental Health] to ship medical waste in the same barge, we will need a special twenty or forty foot container and the medical waste must be pretreated to be transported in the same barge that carry foods and other household items,” Ms. Eke wrote to the other officials on May 17.

Instead of transporting the waste to Grand Cayman for incineration, the department continued to dispose the untreated waste at the Brac landfill, covering the waste with a layer of soil after every dump.

Untreated medical waste was found by the Compass at the Cayman Brac landfill in May. The incinerator there is now currently operational. – Photo: Ken Silva

On June 12, a Department of Environmental Health technician notified department and ministry officials that the Brac incinerator “is back in full operation.”

“But what about the [George Town landfill] repairs?” responded one of his colleagues. “Please, report on progress with these much needed repairs.”

In response to a question about this email exchange, the Department of Environmental Health told the Compass that the George Town landfill incinerator was broken from May 30 to June 30 due to a “malfunctioning refractory” – a heat-resistant material used in incinerators and furnaces. This means that both incinerators were broken for a period of time.

Meanwhile, the Brac incinerator broke again on June 18, according to department emails.

“The incinerator was repaired on the 8th of June through the 9th of June. The first combustion was fairly ok. We did the second burning on the 13th of June. The unit was opened today and the operator realized that there was some defects,” wrote Ms. Eke on June 18. “The technician was contacted and he promised to revisit on or before the 21st of June to rectify the defects.”

The technician indeed repaired the Brac incinerator on June 21. After briefly being down again from July 30 to Aug. 1 due to a “malfunctioning secondary burner,” the Brac incinerator is “currently operational,” the Department of Environmental Health told the Compass on Friday.

However, the George Town landfill incinerator broke down again on Aug. 2, as one of the burners within its primary chamber was damaged, the department stated.

“Arrangements are currently underway for its replacement,” the department stated on Friday.

1 COMMENT

  1. The emissions from medical waste incinerators might perform a threat to the environment and the Public Health. The main disadvantage of medical waste incineration is the emission of pollutants to the atmosphere, some of them extremely toxic.
    Emission factors are strongly influenced by incinerated waste composition, directly affected by incinerated waste type, waste classification, segregation practice and management methodology.
    Who ( qualification?) and how often monitors, samlpes and analyzes major air pollutants in the emissions comprising of smoke, lead, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides? Where the reports are filed and how often quality control is performed and by whom?
    Health City incinerates its own medical waste. Do they possess air pollution control devices? Who oversees the process?
    How is the incineration of medical waste regulated? What are the specific limits of emissions in the Cayman law?
    Why GT medical waste incinerator is located in a residential area?

    I googled the images of medical waste incinerators. Brac’s incinerator looks anything but google images. Is it a whole unit specifically designed for medical waste incineration with all the bells and whistles to control emissions?
    What GT incinerator looks like? Compass, can you provide the data?
    It could be safer, based on the incinerators state and probably absence of any regulations, to store medical waste in specialized containers and ship it off islands for proper disposal elsewhere.

  2. Half of the Grand Cayman population is highly educated.
    Lack of attention given to air pollution from the Dump and incinerator emissions is puzzling.
    One can eat healthy, exercise and spend plenty of time on a beach, yet, if the air they breathe is toxic, their lifespan will be cut short. Dioxin is the most dangerous man-made poison. And it

    Even in the UK, according to “UK Without Incineration Network”, “harmful Incinerator Emissions Going Unreported”.
    https://ciwm-journal.co.uk/harmful-incinerator-emissions-going-unreported-report-claims/

    I can only imagine what is happening in Grand Cayman.

  3. We are a bit like Africa when it comes to maintaining machinery, garbage trucks, airport parking, airport fire engines to name a few.Fortunately we have developed an automated system for Mt Trashmore which involves internal incineration.

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