The Department of Environment will not recommend prosecution against National Concrete, after a company truck was spotted Monday evening dumping concrete into a mangrove swamp in Red Bay.
A department officer visited the site at Prospect Point Road Tuesday morning, after workers had already cleared the concrete and part of the mangrove using a backhoe and shovels.
While unauthorised mangrove destruction has been illegal since April, under the mangrove conservation plan, DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said it would not be fair at this time to recommend prosecution against the offending party. The National Conservation Law’s mangrove plan came into effect during the COVID-19 lockdown and, as a result, Ebanks-Petrie said companies may not be aware that it is illegal to dump their waste directly into the mangrove swamp.
Ebanks-Petrie said the department would engage in outreach to inform concrete companies of their new obligations under the law and that cleaning excess concrete from their trucks into the mangroves would no longer be permitted.
Under the mangrove conservation plan, it is an offence to kill, collect, destroy, damage or harm mangrove habitat without prior authorisation.
“We intend to reach out to the cement company and alert them to the fact that this practice, which has unfortunately become commonplace now, is illegal,” Ebanks-Petrie told the Cayman Compass. “It is very difficult to prosecute when they are not aware they are committing an offence… We don’t have the right set of circumstances to put forward a case for prosecution at this time.”
The Department of Environmental Health, however, continued a separate investigation of the dumping incident to determine if the occurrence had violated the litter law. DEH Director Richard Simms confirmed that an officer had been assigned to the case and the department was working to determine the impact of the dumping.
National Concrete General Manager Richard Tresidder said the dumping incident went against all standard operating procedures and best practices established by the company.
He said National Concrete workers had visited the site three times for remediation and clean up. The company was also in contact with environmental officers, he said, to guide the remediation effort.
Tressider added that a hand assessment and survey had been taken of the site to identify any additional damage or debris, adding that the company is working to ensure such an incident never happens again.
A Prospect Point Road resident witnessed the cement dumping as it occurred Monday and said it had happened in full daylight, around 5pm, in view of walkers and joggers.
“It wasn’t even discreet,” said the resident, Stanley Walton.
He said excess concrete had been cleaned from the truck’s discharge chute into the swamp.
Walton added that while the concrete may not represent a significant amount for the company, it wasn’t acceptable for a mangrove habitat that houses native birds and amphibians.
He returned to the site Tuesday morning to observe the clean-up effort. He said a backhoe was used to remove the concrete block and then workers with shovels removed additional debris. During this process, Walton said a row of mangrove shrubs had to be removed.
The Cayman Islands Mangrove Rangers, a student environmental group, also visited the site on Tuesday to witness the damage.
Chaiz-le Frederick said this was not the first time the rangers had seen concrete and other waste in Cayman’s mangroves. On a recent outing to explore the mangrove near Agape Church in George Town, Frederick said they discovered concrete deep within the swamp, dried around the roots of mangrove shrubs.
“We did see there is a lot of cement dumping. It looks like a common practice now,” he said.
Fellow mangrove ranger Javahn Syms added that they’ve also seen a significant amount of illegal waste dumping in the mangroves at Barkers in West Bay.
Syms said that although workers had come to clean up the mess in Red Bay, the incident set a bad example that could encourage further dumping.
“It has to stop,” he said.
Ranger Dinara Perera explained that occurrences like these not only damage habitat for animals but also hinder the storm protection and flood management that mangroves provide.
“What is it to go the extra mile to dump this in the allocated area rather than dumping it out here in the mangrove where it will cause ecological damage?” Frederick said.
“It’s bad that people have to go out of their way for them to come and fix what they’ve done. They should have been doing this with a clear conscience and the right mindset already.”