Carcinogens found in Cayman wetlands

Waste dumped in wetlands by the National Roads Authority has been found to contain carcinogens – substances capable of causing cancer in living tissue.

Tests on the waste were conducted after a Cayman 27 reporter filmed the NRA dumping material it cleans out of stormwater wells into the wetlands in June. The NRA may have been dumping sludge at such sites for years, as the Water Authority stopped accepting the waste in 2007, according to minutes from the authority’s September board meeting.

Following the June Cayman 27 report, the Water Authority sent the Florida-based laboratory SGS Accutest samples from a dumping site at wetlands near Fairbanks Prison, as well as from a well the NRA cleaned at Seymour Road.

Water Authority board meeting minutes state that the carcinogen Benzo(a)pyrene was found in the samples at levels higher than Florida soil remediation standards. The Florida standards were used because Cayman has no such standards, the minutes state.

The Water Authority stated that other “semi-volatile organics” – which also have potential negative health effects on humans – were found in the samples, but at levels that do not exceed the Florida standards.

“There is insufficient information to confirm that the presence of semi-volatile organics in the sludge samples is directly related to the well-cleaning waste,” the Water Authority added. “However, it is likely that the semi-volatile organics in the sludge originate from vehicle emissions that are deposited on the surface and are flushed into the stormwater drainage wells after rainfall.”

The tests also found that the well waste predominantly consisted of “inert material” – materials like concrete and sand, which are not hazardous but also do not decompose.

The Water Authority stated that the sludge will now be sent to the George Town landfill and deposited in a “special trench at the landfill where the waste can be disposed.”

Before 2007, the NRA disposed material into the wastewater treatment pond at the Water Authority’s wastewater treatment works. However, the Water Authority stopped this practice because it was concerned that the NRA trucks could possibly collapse the embankment of the pond when driving on it, according to the authority’s minutes.

The Department of Environmental Health initially gave the NRA permission to deposit its waste at the landfill after the Water Authority stopped accepting it in 2007.

“However, this permission was withdrawn, and the NRA disposes the materials at various disposal locations such as wetland area along the Linford Pierson Highway,” the Water Authority stated in its July meeting minutes.

The Water Authority, Department of Environmental Health and NRA did not respond to Compass questions about when permission was initially withdrawn for the waste to be deposited at the landfill, and for how long the NRA has been dumping the sludge at wetlands sites.

Now that the Department of Environmental Health is again accepting the waste at the landfill, the Water Authority stated that how the issue has been handled is “a good and positive example of various Government agencies working together to find a suitable and responsible solution for this challenge that affected every agency.”

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