Pre-construction work is set to begin on government’s long-awaited waste management plan, but a final agreement with the selected project bidder, Dart-led consortium DECCO, is still in progress, government announced Tuesday.

Three years after DECCO was selected to tackle government’s waste management problem, negotiations on the design, operation and financing aspects of the project are ongoing.

Officials indicated Tuesday, however, that they are ready to move forward and begin the early phases of the project. A final agreement with DECCO on operational details could be signed by the end of the year, said Premier Alden McLaughlin.

By 2024, when the George Town landfill is expected to reach full capacity, government hopes to complete the final phase of its integrated waste management plan – a waste-to energy facility that would turn rubbish into ash. Government estimates the project could divert up to 90% of waste from being landfilled in the future.

The premier lauded Tuesday’s signing of a pre-construction agreement with consortium members as a moment of “historical significance” for the Cayman Islands, but recognised negotiations had been complicated so far.

“There are so many moving parts with respect to a complex project like this. Being able to negotiate the parameters of them and the cost of them are really what has taken this long,” McLaughlin said, regarding the three-year pause between selecting a bidder and Tuesday’s announcement.

“There were points … when the sort of numbers that came in made us feel that this was just not a viable project,” he said. “They’ve had to go back and rethink some aspects of the overall plant and come back in with refinements, which have led to this point where we’re still not ready to sign the final agreement.”

Premier Alden McLaughlin, Governor Martyn Roper and Minister Dwayne Seymour at Tuesday’s waste management press conference. – Photo: GIS

One of the first steps forward will be the $20 million capping and remediation of the George Town landfill, said Health Minister Dwayne Seymour. He added that the agreement with the consortium is the Cayman Islands’ first private-public partnership.

“Following today’s signing, the consortium will be able to finalise design details for the project, including the energy recovery facility, otherwise known as waste to energy. This will take place ahead of an environmental impact assessment and submissions to the planning department,” Seymour said.

“The closure, capping and remediation of the George Town landfill will be undertaken in phases with the entire mound covered with an initial regulating layer by the end of this year and the entire remediation completion by mid 2022.”

Regarding waste management in the Sister Islands, McLaughlin said the long-term plan is to transport that waste to Grand Cayman for processing.

In the meantime, he said government was acting to address the open pit of medical waste and sewage at the Cayman Brac landfill. The site’s medical waste incinerator has been out of service since April and since that time, untreated medical waste has been dumped into a trench that is layered with soil.

“We have had a discussion with the director [Richard Simms] and we have agreed [with] the caucus and the cabinet that the incinerator should be replaced, but these things take time to do,” McLaughlin said.

“In the future, once this [integrated solid waste management system] project comes online, we won’t have to be grappling with these issues because all of the waste in the Sister Islands will be brought to Cayman to be dealt with, principally through the waste-to-energy facility. But otherwise there won’t be a landfill facility needed in either of the islands thereafter.”

Department of Environmental Health Director Richard Simms said he hoped the Brac incinerator would be operational again within the next two weeks. He added that government is working to source containers for additional medical waste storage in the Brac.

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