Consultant: No quick fix to landfill leaching

12 May 2016

As published in the Cayman Compass

Consultants are inspecting the George Town Landfill. - PHOTO: CHRIS COURT

Closing and capping large areas of the George Town Landfill will likely be the only way to lessen the potential environmental impact on the North Sound, according to consultants conducting tests at the site.

Julian Bromhead, of consultants AMEC Foster Wheeler, said there was no quick and easy fix to the problem.

Data collected previously from groundwater wells at the landfill shows that hazardous substances have not been detected in “significant concentrations,” Mr. Bromhead said during a press briefing Monday.

However, the preliminary results show that some nutrients are leaching out of the landfill and impacting a canal which leads to the sound. The latest round of tests being carried out by the consultants will enable engineers to establish how far-reaching that impact is.

“There are some nutrients detected, particularly nitrogen and phosphorous, which are being leached from the landfill into groundwater and surface waters and they have a local impact at the canal mouth around the canal entry to North Sound,” said Mr. Bromhead.

“There have been increased levels of chlorophyll and algae at that location. We need to see what the new data is showing in terms of the dispersal of those nutrients out into the wider North Sound, which we will get from this data,” he said.

He said the investigations were designed to assist in looking at what needed to be done to close and cap parts of the site, which he said was the only way to remediate the impact from the unlined landfill.

“Ultimately, it is about looking at closing and capping the landfill site to limit the leaching of further nutrients from the site,” he said.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said large areas of the landfill were already “essentially closed” in terms of adding new waste. He said it was these areas that could be capped.

He said his Progressives party stands by their decision to base future landfill operations at the George Town site, though he said the amount of waste going into the landfill would have to be significantly reduced.

He acknowledged other parts of the waste management infrastructure, such as composting or recycling plants, could be located elsewhere.

“A big part of the strategy has to be reducing what goes into the landfill. Boosting composting is a quick win. We can move that off site and significantly reduce what gets put into the landfill while we examining recommendations about what else we can do on that site,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Jennifer Ahearn, the chief officer in the Ministry of Health, which has responsibility for the landfill, said the consultant’s draft national strategy assessing potential options, including recycling and waste-to-energy technology, is now expected at the end of May, when it will go out to public consultation.

Following that process, an outline business case will be produced by the end of the year with government expecting to go out to tender in early 2016 for various parts of the new waste management infrastructure. Mr. McLaughlin said the high cost of the project meant it would need to be a public-private partnership. 

James Bovell

James Bovell

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