Make what you will of the project to remediate the solid-waste disaster dubbed “Mount Trashmore,” but the effort to end the fire, smoke and leaching hazard has to be a good thing.

The shredding of 7,000 tons of discarded tires is nearly complete, and at 100 tires per ton, that makes 700,000 tires that will be removed from the George Town landfill by early spring.

The shredder spluttered to life on March 21 last year as Premier Alden McLaughlin donned work gloves and ceremonially hurled the first tire onto a conveyor belt, which dropped it into a set of whirling blades that carved it into two-inch chips – dubbed “tire-derived aggregate” – in five seconds.

Now, says Jim Schubert, senior project manager for government’s Integrated Solid Waste Management System, Davenport Development has used most of the tire-derived aggregate from the first 5,000 tons of discarded tires as filler in their three-phase South Sound Vela project.

“The remaining shredded tires, approximately 2,000 tons,” he says, “will be used in the ISWMS facility development – for roads, embankments, etc.,” and possibly in drainage works and erosion control.

The Canadian engineer says he has used the aggregate in Edmonton, consuming 600,000 shredded tires for a half-kilometer of road.

Schubert’s days as “chief project manager” are numbered, however. He and the Department of Environmental Health on Oct. 11 last year announced the appointment of Dart Enterprises Contracting Company, known as DECCO, as “the preferred bidder” to manage the 25-year waste-management plan.

Contract negotiations are due to complete this fall, says Martin Edelenbos, Dart’s solid waste management engineering coordinator, who has operated similar projects in Canada, worked locally from mid-1997 until early 2001 as assistant director for solid waste at the Department of Environmental Health, and operated a similar solid-waste-management system in Bermuda from mid-2005 through 2010.

Cayman’s waste management contract includes remediation of the existing landfill. Edelenbos says, “While details are part of the contract negotiations, the landfill will be capped and closed with the intention that it would become a green space,” dampening speculation that Dart might use the land to expand Camana Bay.

DECCO is negotiating with subcontractors and has proposed schedules for phasing the project as part of the talks.

The company’s partners include Denmark’s Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor as engineering procurement contractors for the 7 megawatt waste-to-energy facility on the landfill site; Cayman’s Island Recycling and U.K.’s Guernsey Recycling Group for recycling, tire shredding and composting; Australia-based environmental and design consultant GHD; and Miami-based Cambridge Project Development to handle such residual materials as fly ash, waste scrubbed from waste-to-energy emissions and other non-combustibles.

“Negotiations are going well with DECCO and the Cayman Islands government, and we hope to have a contract in place later this year,” Schubert says, cautioning that an environmental impact assessment must also be completed before work starts on the three-year construction schedule.

“The EIA that is required for the project is underway,” he says, “and also is planned to be completed later this year.”

Edelenbos indicated that if the contracts and the EIA are finished on time, DECCO could start construction in 2019, saying “all components of ISWMS will [be] in operation by 2021,” completed “on the basis of availability – with the waste-to-energy facility being the most complex, completed last.”

The partners may not have signed official documents, but a joint October 2017 press release names 2021 as the date the George Town landfill hits capacity. The document also suggests a slowly slipping schedule, however, predicting a September 2017 appointment of the “preferred bidder,” an April 2018 contract signing, EIA completion and Planning Department approval between September 2017 and July 2018, and an August 2018 start to construction.

DECCO will “design, build, finance, operate and maintain” waste management facilities; capital investment is pegged at $106 million – which includes $64.3 million for the 53,000-ton capacity, steam-driven on-site waste-to-energy plant – and overall operational costs for the 25-year project are estimated at $426 million, according to 2016’s Amec Foster Wheeler and KPMG outline business case. The company’s costs are “under negotiation.”

The consultants also pointed out that doing nothing would not yield meaningful cost savings – and would constitute an environmental disaster.

“A status quo-type system of just landfilling waste on the islands,” would cost $418 million, they wrote 18 months ago, and annual intake of solid materials would rise from current levels between 60,000 tons and 80,000 tons per year, to between 100,000 tons and 250,000 tons per year, adding exponentially to a mountain of refuse already 80 feet high.

A relatively modest investment, however, additional to that $418 million, the authors wrote, “will greatly reduce the landfilling of waste, as it will be either reduced, reused, recycled or recovered with the new system,” eliminating 95 percent of the material now placed in the landfill.

“The recycling materials collected from [half-a-dozen] depots [around Grand Cayman], metals collected and tires collected/processed are being diverted from the landfill now,” Schubert says, but at only minimal effect, “so less than 5 percent of the incoming waste is diverted from [the] landfill.

“With the future ISWMS, we anticipate that this will be flipped, and 95 percent of the waste will be diverted,” he says.

ISWMS will not be profitable. Government will pay a per tonnage fee for waste-management services, while operating costs for the DECCO consortium will be offset by revenue from electricity generated at the waste-to-energy facility. More precisely, Amec/KPMG project revenues of $269 million, including $108 million in sales of electricity to the Caribbean Utilities Company and wholesale deals with overseas aggregators for recyclable materials.

Schubert says preliminary designs for ISWMS and the waste-to-energy plant will be released only after DECCO and DEH sign the management contract, but both are confident of success.

“DECCO has many years’ experience in managing complex projects,” says Cameron Graham, DECCO and Dart Development president.

“Beyond design and construction, our investment analysis and business development teams support the delivery of development projects. Working with our partners in the consortium, we can provide a waste-management solution which provides the country with a sustainable alternative to the landfill.”

Edelenbos agrees: “A new waste-management solution is essential to the country’s infrastructure, and ISWMS aligns with DECCO’s focus on sustainability and innovation.”

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