Landfill fires prompt warning over battery disposal

Fire engines and excavators can be seen at the George Town landfill on Tuesday night as fire crews tackle a fire. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Two fires in two days at the George Town landfill have led to renewed calls by the Cayman Islands Fire Service and the Department of Environmental Health for the public to dispose of batteries properly.

Although the source of ignition of Tuesday night’s fire remains unknown, officials said there was an “an ever-present risk of ignition when materials are disposed of together. In particular, the disposal of electronic items and batteries in the general garbage can easily cause fires in the landfill.”

Monday afternoon’s fire was blamed on a discarded cellphone battery.

According to a statement issued via the Government Information Services, the Department of Environmental Health has experienced high volumes of mixed waste through December and January, “which increases the risk of ignition during the processing and disposing of that waste”.

The fires on Monday and Tuesday were described as small surface fires, both of which were extinguished.

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Based on an initial investigation, a GIS spokesperson said, the two fires are not believed to be connected.

After fire officers put out Tuesday night’s fire, a reduced crew of two CIFS firefighters remained on scene overnight, along with staff from the DEH, and they continuously damped down the area to prevent re-ignition.

Although the Fire Service crews have now left the landfill, DEH staff are continuing to monitor the scene for any signs of re-ignition, the GIS spokesperson said.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Walker said in the statement that DEH staff had been able to alert the Fire Service to the fire at an early stage.

“It is their diligence in the early notification, the fact these were small surface waste fires and not deep-seated veins of fire, and the prompt deployment of CIFS resources and firefighting equipment that has prevented further fire spread and limited the impact of these two small fires on surrounding resident and businesses,” Walker said.

He added, “The minor excavations and damping down was precautionary and aims to reduce the chance of re-ignition from any unseen hotspots.”

Battery disposal

This burnt item, which was recovered following a fire at the landfill on Monday, 18 Jan., is believed to be a cellphone battery and suspected to have caused the small surface fire. – Photo DEH

In the statement, residents and businesses were reminded to separate batteries and electronic goods from mixed waste before disposing of them.

“Batteries should never be placed in normal mixed waste or general recycling bins. Instead, batteries should be recycled using the proper battery recycling service provided at all major supermarkets. Batteries should be removed from broken devices and recycled separately.

“If the battery cannot be removed from the device, both may be recycled together using the small waste electrical recycling facility located at the George Town landfill drop off, which is accessible 24 hours a day.”

Walker added, “I encourage all residents and businesses across Grand Cayman to do their bit in segregating and recycling their waste to keep volumes of mixed waste to a minimum and help avoid further fire incidents.”

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  1. There should be a spot at every recycling location where batteries could be separately disposed. Better yet, it would be a big help if there was a separate spot on dumpsters where batteries could be placed whereby the collectors could keep them apart from regular garbage and dispose of them at the dump.

    This would go a long way to encourage the public to dispose of batteries in a safer way.

  2. At or HOME DEPOT. there IS A BIN,,FOR BATTERY DISPOSAL, but there is ALSO, a bin to recycle FLUORESCENT LAMPS , yes there are millions still being used , as they contain MERCURY, the GREEN END LAMPS ARE SAFER, NOT LAST there are only 3 fluorescent curly ones in my home EVERYTHING else are LED lamps . , Yes the battery thing is a real fire problem .