Business

Cleaning up the Dump

dump-verticalNew solid waste management plan is a model programme.

By Kathy Borsuk

If you’d like to see an image of post-Apocalypse Provo, take a trip to the “dump,” currently sprawling over a 27 acre site of formerly beautiful bush in the northwest corner of the island. The “flags” that mark your approach are fragments of plastic bags flapping in the breeze. You’ll be greeted by swarms of hungry flies as you dodge rusted appliances, chunks of lumber and other piles of trash that have tumbled off the backs of trucks and burst open on the way to the site.

Some days, visiting tourists view ugly black plumes of smoke as they make a landing approach to the airport. That’s from the burning of rubber tires and other debris at the dump site or from spot fires that occasionally erupt. And if the tradewinds stray from their easterly flow, residents of Wheeland and Blue Hills suffer the effects of choking, acrid fumes blowing over their homes and schools.

The situation is no better in Grand Turk, where the landfill was full to bursting before the ravages of Hurricane Ike and is now overflowing with the detritus left behind as nearly a year’s worth of garbage was created by the single storm. Waste management on the out-Islands mirrors the lack of proper separation, treatment and handling on a smaller scale.

As the number of residents and visitors to the Turks & Caicos Islands escalate, the amount of garbage grows exponentially, currently estimated at a ton per citizen annually and a ton and a half per tourist! Year by year, it becomes increasingly clear that the current, outmoded solid waste system does not meet the TCI’s aspiration to be a model of sustainable development.

The TCI Government’s initial waste management study was undertaken in 2001, followed by the 2005 Feasibility Study and Detailed Designs for a Revised Solid Waste Management Project. Results highlighted the clear need for an integrated system “which follows the life cycle of consumable products (from cradle to grave); provides an improved collection and disposal system; minimises waste generation and maximises . . . recycling and reuse . . . and increases public awareness and encourages stakeholders to take responsibility for the waste they produce.” In late 2007, tender was put forth for proposals to privatise the national solid waste management system and in March 2008, an initial 20-year contract was awarded to Turks & Caicos Environmental Management (TCEM).

TCEM includes a family whose members are, you might say, “garbage specialists.” Led by family patriarch Jim Hodge, an internationally recognized authority on waste disposal, the tradition is continued by his son Tim and longtime family friend, Geoffrey Starin, along with a team of highly-skilled engineers and specialists. The combined group offers over 100 years of experience in landfill design, permitting, construction, operation, waste collection/transfer, recycling and equipment financing. For instance, they designed, built, permitted and operated Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Washington State, USA, which processes 2.5 million tons of garbage annually – nearly 100,000 container-loads – arriving to the remote site by train, truck and barge.  Some of this refuse comes from the 30 municipal collection contracts they have developed and overseen, servicing 200,000 homes and collecting 400,000 tons of trash annually.

Besides bearing a long tradition of international partnerships, the group has a unique TCI connection. Jim and Tim have been part-time residents of the TCI for most of their lives. Jim’s parents, Russell and Alice Hodge, built the first home on Parrot Cay in 1971, and the extended family has spent much time there.

TCEM’s plan is to design, construct and operate a state-of-the-art solid waste landfill and refuse collection system for the Turks & Caicos Islands that will be a model for other Caribbean countries. The first step will be to fence, gate, secure and clean-up the existing dump sites. Next will be the construction of a brand-new landfill in Providenciales (including recycling facilities), waste collection and transfer stations for Grand Turk and Salt Cay, North, Middle and South Caicos, and implementation of a curbside residential trash collection program. According to TCEM President Tim Hodge, “Consolidating waste from the outer islands to a single landfill not only conserves land, but centralises refuge control and is most cost-efficient for a small country.”

The landfill design will meet or exceed U.S. EPA Subtitle D design standards and environmental controls. It will cover a newly created 27 acre area in 9 phases of 3 acres each. Existing ridges in the northwestern part of Providenciales form a natural bowl-like structure for the site and it is anticipated to have a minimum life of 20 years.

erdf-cell-constructionOnce the base of the landfill is graded and prepared, a self-sealing geosynthetic clay liner is laid under a 60 mil layer of a polyethylene geomembrane. This thick plastic lining is designed to restrict water intrusion and filtration of “leachate” (the noxious, toxic “yuch” that results from garbage decomposition and rainfall) into the groundwater. Refuse will be spread and compacted daily over a small 100 x 50-foot working face and covered with a layer of soil to minimise odor. Built-in controls include a leachate collection system, in which the “dump drippings” are collected via a drainage blanket and piped into storage ponds, to be reintroduced to the landfill to speed decomposition. Run-off, erosion and sediment control is handled with stormwater collection ponds and a 35 foot perimeter berm. The natural methane gas produced by decomposition will be collected and flared off, eliminating 98% of the odor. (Eventually, plans are to integrate a bio-energy system that can produce enough electricity to power almost 1,500 of the nation’s homes.)

When each section of the landfill reaches capacity (an estimated two to three years), a 6 to 12-inch layer of foundation soil, another PVC geomembrane and a 2-foot thick layer of drainage soil will be put in place, followed by seeding of vegetation to create an esthetically pleasing mound.

Tim Hodge doesn’t underestimate the need for waste reduction not only to extend the life of the landfill, but trigger a sense of responsibility among residents and tourists. To this end, there will be a public recycling drop-off center at each waste collection facility. “Green waste” (plant cuttings, etc.) will be composted, scrap metal (including car bodies) and aluminum cans baled and transported for sale in Miami and paper/cardboard either re-sold or shredded into compost. Construction waste and moderate-risk refuse such as batteries and propane cylinders will be kept separate, as well.

TCEM plans to build proper waste collection stations on TCI’s other islands; fenced, gated and paved to provide a sanitary and efficient place to process refuse. Here, collection trucks unload garbage onto the “tipping floor,” where it is compacted into a top load container which has been lined with a giant plastic “garbage bag” to curtail leaks and odors. These neatly wrapped packs are placed in covered containers for hauling to a barge loading facility, where they will transported by barge to the Provo landfill. This system has worked extremely well for TCEM’s sister companies in Washington State (which collect, barge and haul garbage from numerous small islands in southeast Alaska and Hawaii to the Roosevelt Landfill.)

Eventually, TCEM will take over the residential curbside trash collection system, currently handled by the TCI Government. Each household will receive an attractive, sturdy, 96 gallon “toter” trash can, designed to be easily lifted via hydraulic tipper by TCEM’s fuel-efficient collection trucks which will collect refuse weekly. Plans are for 8 trucks to service 200 to 300 residences daily, following a weekly rotating schedule. Future plans include home sorting of recyclables and green waste, along with a public outreach program emphasising the importance of “Reducing, reusing and recycling.” TCEM will also support beach and street litter beautification programs and sponsor one annual college scholarship to a TCI student pursuing environmental studies.

Besides being based on strong local partnerships, TCEM’s proposal focuses on keeping jobs in the country, with local TCI businesses or citizens providing the bulk of the major and minor subcontracting services. In fact, other than technical and managerial oversight and the equipment unavailable in TCI, all works and services under the project are to be provided by local partners and local resources.

In response to the government’s procurement for the project, TCEM’s cost to government for this comprehensive program was dramatically less than its nearest competitors. At the same time, it received unanimous approval from both an 11-person technical review board and the tender board oversight committee.

When TCEM was awarded the contract in early 2008, their estimated time frame was:  three months to take over existing collections and start the new landfill; a year to  close the existing dumps and operate the waste transfer stations and about 14 months for the new landfill to be fully functional. With estimates of 200 tons of waste generated per day in Provo alone by 2010 and rising to 460 tons daily by 2025, there is no doubt of the need for swift implementation of this comprehensive programme.

Unfortunately, the effects of the September 2008 hurricanes, the global recession and uncertainty as to the future of the TCI government have, at press time, slowed the government’s final approval and funding of this much-needed infrastructure investment. Notwithstanding these difficult times, TCI Government remains committed to doing what is required to carry out this crucial project.

TCEM has agreed to a scaled-down, month-to-month start-up plan until the TCI Government and its budget stabilise. This would include creating a small, temporary landfill in Provo and the importation of equipment to aid in the Grand Turk clean-up. Eventually, hopes rest allocating the necessary resources from the new budget plan to fund this all-important tool to keep the Islands “Beautiful by Nature and Clean by Choice.”



10 Comments

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weiglein
Dec 27, 2009 14:22

How ironic that the image of the Provo dump was positioned next to the Times of the Islands cover with the TCI supermodel walking in a very different island landscape. As one of those tourists, referred to in the article, Cleaning up the Dump, I was curious about my impact on this place of beautiful beaches. When I told my family that I wanted to see the landfill and desalination facilities, rather than taking a boat ride or going snorkeling, I came up in a minority of one. Building a better dump doesn’t solve the larger problem of excessive consumption and waste that will negatively affect everyone’s experience in such a small environment. As a person from a country that hasn’t effectively addressed it’s own problems with this issue and someone who is greatly interested in conservation and the environment, I’m grateful that there are people in TCI who are making a real effort. It would be great if tourists had a way to leave less behind for others to deal with after we have gone.

Curtis Harris
Jan 13, 2010 13:00

Folks, I/we are totally unimpressed with the TCEM proposal.

For one beginning thing, it proposes totally obsolete “technology?” over 90 years old.

There are numerous lower cost and environmentally better answers to the problems in the islands.

Frankly only about 13% of the islands wastes should be landfilled.

About 45% of the islands wastes are high quality alternative fuels proven by dozens of Universities and governments around the world. About 40% of the islands wastes make high quality and safe and proven also studied and reported by major universities and the US EPA.

The compost/fertilizer is greatly needed and there won’t even be enough to care for the islands golf courses.

Obviously there is some subterfuge going on somewhere here in this proposal.

The islands can eliminate 87% of their wastes at lower cost while producing energy and fertilizer/soils, which have value and are now imported.

That is it,

Email me and I will send you the reports and studies and video tapes and technical papers on these issues.

Sincerely,

Curtis Harris
EPT Inc.

Jay Waxenbaum
Aug 20, 2010 14:09

Curtis

I agree completely.

I strongly urge the TCI government to reconsider alternate technologies. For example, composting of food waste will provide much needed nutrient rich soil amendments to this desert tropical island. Also, the carbon based msw can be used for the production of power, etc…

Please provide me with your thoughts. I’m very interested.

Take care,

Jay

ken
Mar 4, 2011 7:23

We are invovled with MSW gasification process and the implementation of these systems. The new incenteration process will seprate it all for reuse and power generation.

J
Dec 15, 2011 16:43

Above posters, learn to read:

““Green waste” (plant cuttings, etc.) will be composted, scrap metal (including car bodies) and aluminum cans baled and transported for sale in Miami and paper/cardboard either re-sold or shredded into compost. Construction waste and moderate-risk refuse such as batteries and propane cylinders will be kept separate, as well.”

and

“Eventually, plans are to integrate a bio-energy system that can produce enough electricity to power almost 1,500 of the nation’s homes.”

I know it’s hard when the article is longer than a few sentences but please try.

Loretta
Feb 27, 2012 9:35

I don’t know about the logistics of waste management, but considering this plan was in the think tank in 2001, you would think that by now you would see at least some “blue box” type receptacles around the island, especially outside Graceway & at major resorts….just to walk around & see the amount of bottles, cans, etc tossed about Gracebay road & Leeward is a real shame.

francois iannuzzi
Dec 18, 2013 13:24

i need to get in contact with the compagnie TCEM head office please if its possible send my the contact

Willie
Jan 23, 2014 17:25

Francois,

You can reach them via the Government switch board at +1 649 946 2801… If you can not reach them at this number, they will provide a number for you.

Dolores
Nov 5, 2014 11:30

I was in Provo in July 2014 and could not help but notice the amount of trash tossed about in the brush. We walked through an area of heavy vegetation near the Regency Hotel and saw several dump sites, one that looked like it was restaurant trash. There is dumping everywhere you look. Why doesn’t someone organize a clean up? It is not the tourist doing the dumping. Aren’t there any civic leaders or politicians who care? The Turks and Caicos is beautiful by nature but it is also a beautiful dump, or at least it is in Providenciales.

Patricia
Feb 4, 2015 7:33

My first time and one week on Provo and here I am looking at a trash article. The trash issue on the Island has really shocked me. So much money here and obviously very little sense of responsibility. Come on 99% of 1% give back and start caring. Do something .

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