Capping exercises begin at landfill

A bulldozer gets to work capping a test area at the top of the George Town landfill. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Efforts are under way to determine how much fill material will be required to cap the George Town landfill, and the associated costs, officials said this week.

Capping the landfill is a key part of Cayman’s planned integrated solid waste management system.

On Monday, an initial ‘test pad’ was identified on top of the landfill’s main mound, which stands more than 90 feet above sea level. Since then, several loads of fill material have been hauled to that site by dump trucks, and then evenly applied by a bulldozer.

“Work on the remediation test pad began this week, which will inform placement techniques for the full cover operation,” said a Dart spokesperson.

A Dart-led consortium was named the successful bidder of a 2017 government tender to design, build and operate various components of the waste-management system.

“Once we’ve determined how much fill will be required, we will then have to discuss costs and other matters and come to an agreement,” said Richard Simms, director of the Department of Environmental Health, which manages the landfill. “Once we have an agreement, then we will be able to move forward and cap the landfill.”

In March, Dart announced, via the company’s publication Camana Bay Times and on its website, that the remediation would include the capping of the main mound, stormwater run-off measures, and the monitoring of environmental factors.

This site at the top of George Town landill’s main mound has been capped as part of a test exercise. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

“Remediation of the George Town landfill is a key aspect of the project and, as announced last year, the timeline for remediation has been accelerated to achieve the benefits of reduced environmental impacts and fire prevention,” said the Dart spokesperson.

The solid waste management system master plan will also include the construction of a waste-to-energy facility, which will see significant reductions to the tipping, or dumping, of trash. However, it is still not clear when such a facility will be built and, until then, disposing of garbage will continue in a similar manner to how it is done now. The key difference, though, will be that tipping will be shifted from the main mound to a smaller mound that currently stands at roughly 30 feet above sea level.

“We’ve been using both mounds to dispose of garbage since February’s fire,” said Simms. “We will continue to use both mounds for now.”

Landfill fires

Smoke continues to emit from the George Town landfill
Smoke emits from the George Town landfill during March’s blaze.

The landfill has seen many fires over the years, the largest of which occurred in early March this year when a massive blaze, fuelled by strong winds, raged on top of the main mound and the tyre area for several days.

The most recent fire occurred on Saturday, shortly after 1pm. That small surface blaze was quickly identified and extinguished by DEH workers and fire crews.

Since the start of this year, five fires have been reported at the landfill. In January, two fires were reported, one in the car-recycling plant, and the other within the main mound.

In February, another deep-seated fire was identified.

The March fire led to the closure of nearby schools and the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, and forced the evacuation of the Lakeside condo complex and other nearby neighbourhoods. In an attempt to smother the flames and bring the blaze under control, several layers of marl were applied to the site.

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  1. Like virtually everyone on Grand Cayman, I am pleased to learn that this long-delayed project has finally begun. I have heard so many things about the project over the years. It is confusing as to what is happening or what is committed to by Government.

    In any case, I am somewhat surprised that the current phase is a “test phase” to determine the depth the top cover will be. Surely, capping has occurred at many, many landfills around the world. Numerous governments should be able to provide copies of plans and reports as to how their respective capping projects took place and what final “as-built” reports indicate took place.

    While I realize most government projects are secret in Cayman, many countries both in Europe and the Americas are quite open to sharing data about their infrastructure projects. Generally, the industry term is “Best Practices,” meaning that governments and agencies gladly share their solutions to issues of common concern and need. Usually, these reports also include actions that did not work. These revelations help others to avoid the same mistakes.

  2. This is good news…, I guess. I’m definitely not a landfill remediation expert nor an environmental specialist, but simply from a layman perspective what confuses me and raises my curiousity is that there was no mention by Mr. Simms of the installation of any facilities to vent the methane and other gases. That is a crucial element of capping any landfill and such vents are clearly visible where they exist. Did Mr. Simms simply “forget” to mention this crucial facet of the project or has it not been included? Is the hope that the last big fire burnt away all the gases? Is the expectation that future fires within the bowels of the landfill will take care of those gases?

    Mr. Simms, sounds like the public is due some more important details.