Department of Environmental Health workers are busy ploughing away at a backlog of uncompacted trash that has been piling up at the George Town landfil.
The trash continues to mount as the department grapples with frequent machinery failure, while meeting the demands of a recent increase in refuse.
Between 16 Nov. and 20 Dec., the DEH embarked on a country-wide bulk waste clean-up campaign. At the end of the six-week initiative, more than 600 tons of bulk waste had been collected from Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands. Most of that garbage was taken to the George Town landfill.
While DEH gathered the bulk waste, it maintained its household and commercial waste collection services, as well.
At the heart of the backlog is the DEH’s single compactor, the Al-Jon 500. The $450,000 compactor has been periodically in and out of operation due to mechanical and engineering issues. Between August and September, the machine was out of commission, and the DEH spent more than $60,000 on rental equipment and machine repairs.
Since the start of December, the compactor has been out of service for approximately two weeks, causing the trash to build up. However, DEH Director Richard Simms told the Cayman Compass that the compactor had returned to service on Monday, 30 Dec.
“We’ve been busy playing catch-up with the increased garbage over the Christmas holiday,” said Simms. “The compactor was down, but it was returned into services earlier today.”
Not having the compactor in service tremendously increases the chances of a fire breaking out. In October, Simms said he and his team were aware of the dangers and were working to mitigate them.
“We’ll always have landfill fires, but the big preventative measure is the compaction,” Simms told the Compass in October. “So, with the compactor out, you will have space to build gaps.”
The “gaps” refer to air pockets which serve as an area for methane gas to build up. Methane, a highly combustible gas, can eventually ignite and lead to fires of varying sizes and degrees.