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The Editor Speaks: The dump problem has government stumped

Colin WilsonwebWhilst appreciating the Progressives Government has been in power less than eight months the dump problem seems to have left them stumped for a quick answer.

And a quick fix is what we want.

Quite frankly, I was not impressed with the backslapping and glowing (amongst the smoke) speeches made by Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush and Minister of Health Osbourne Bodden concerning the firefighters and Department of Environmental Health staff. Most certainly they deserved praise and grateful thanks for having to come once again to put another fire out at our George Town dump.

It did not need to have a committee “to provide Government with their best technical advice, take responsibility for the business issues associated with the project, approve budgetary and procurement strategy, define and realize benefits and monitor the risks, quality and timeliness of the comprehensive waste management system”. A committee that had its first meeting not until January 22nd 2014.

I agree whole heartily with the minister when he said “These fires only serve to underscore the fact that it is of critical importance to the country that we find a sustainable solution to waste management,” he said.

It did not need any expertise from committees to note that there was and still is inadequate equipment at the George Town landfill site (the Dump) that mostly doesn’t work because it is broken!

“Officials were currently looking at an immediate plan of action to bring new equipment to mitigate the problem,” Bodden said.

The equipment was broken and inadequate at the fire that happened at the dump only a couple of months before

It didn’t get fixed!! The equipment wasn’t made adequate. The problem was not put at high priority even then.

When travelling along the West Bay Road past the HSBC Bank on my way to St George’s Anglican Church on Courts Road that I do every day the dump is at least a couple of miles away. Most days, and especially when the wind is blowing from the north, I can smell an obnoxious odour coming from the dump. When there is a fire the smoke and the soot accompanying it comes across into everything in this habitat. I know someone who had an extra $200 plus on their water bill last month for just cleaning up their driveway from the black soot from the previous dump fire. The smell of smoke penetrates every room in the homes and offices. For two days the school next to Camana Bay had to close because of it. Fruit hanging from trees are covered in soot and cannot be consumed.

And just in case the powers that be decided this whole debacle wasn’t a top priority – the West Bay Road is the main route tourists take especially from the cruise ships.  Not forgetting how close to this area are the hotels and condominiums the tourists have paid hard earned money to stay.

Whilst the clean up operation hasn’t been as bad this time around, the smoke has made me feel nauseous. It doesn’t take Dr Kiran Kumar, the Medical Officer of Health or Dr. Maysson Sallam, Assistant Director at the Cayman Islands Government Environmental Services, to tell me the smoke I am inhaling, along with everyone else within a radius of 5-10 miles of the dump, is not good for me. Kumaror said he was ‘monitoring the situation’ and Sallam said she wanted us to know that the fire was not in any area of toxic matter. All smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter (PM or soot).

“It’s obvious we need to make some improvements to responding to dump fires and adequately supplying our officers with properly functioning safety equipment, which UK Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor Peter Holland pointed out after his review of the Fire Service team two weeks ago. We will learn from this and make the necessary improvements!” Said Eric Bush.

“We will learn from this?” When? No action has taken place from three months ago. How much learning does it take to know that essential equipment when it is broken and inadequate needs fixing immediately?

If there is another dump fire within the next couple of months and the equipment is still not fixed and inadequate, I hope some heads will roll and preferably on top of the dump.




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