By Neil Hartnell
Tribune Business Editor
The New Providence landfill’s new operator yesterday said it is “hitting at least 80 percent of our targets”, having already invested $9m of its initial $20m financing.
Henry Dean, deputy chairman of New Providence Ecology Park, told Tribune Business that complaints about vehicle damage from truckers that use the site had dropped by 75 percent since the private sector consortium took over operations in mid-March.
And he revealed that the group was also seeking to take over management and control of the adjacent sewage pool, currently overseen by the Water & Sewerage Corporation, into which the contents of all New Providence septic tanks currently go.
The United Sanitation principal, who heads the ownership committee overseeing operations at the Tonique Williams Highway site, said it had achieved its initial goals of “getting everything under control” from a management, remediation and security/safety viewpoint.
He disclosed that the group plans to soon hold an “open house” so that the Bahamian people can inspect the “good strides” they are making in starting to transform the landfill from an ongoing environmental and health disaster that threatens to erupt at any moment.
“Things are going well and progressing satisfactorily,” Mr Dean said. “We’ve been able to cover the exposed garbage, we’ve been able to create some pathways in different areas of the garbage that will help prevent vehicle damage.
“For the truckers, we have reduced the complaints by 75 percent. The damages to vehicles have been reduced by 75 percent. We’ve stockpiled fill to have at hand to cover the garbage, we have started the process of shredding tyres, and we have begun to mulch the green waste.”
He added that New Providence Ecology Park had also begun to address the problems with the adjacent sewerage plant, even though this was not under its direct control. Mr Dean said the landfill operator had completed “about 60 percent” of the work deemed necessary on this overflowing facility, adding that its takeover was “where we want to go”.
“The initial objective is to clear it out, clean it out and have the stuff flowing more smoothly and freely,” Mr Dean said. “We’ve been able to stop the overflow, and we’re going to use much of that stuff to mix and cover the landfill; maybe we’re able to create some fertilizer.
“We have not yet engaged the Government. They know there’s an understanding we will have some talks. We would want to get it organised so they could see what we have done and have a better appreciation for it, which would help that process.”
Mr Dean, who also chairs the Waste Resources Development Group (WRDG), the seven-strong consortium of Bahamian waste services providers that hold a combined majority 60 percent stake in the landfill operator, said a fire engine specifically designed to fight landfill fires had already been acquired and was due to arrive on-island in the next two to three weeks.
“What we are doing is arming ourselves and being proactive,” he explained. “The summer months are here, and if any fire occurs we are going to deal with it aggressively to limit any outburst.
“We’re well on our way to doing the things we want to do. By year-end we will definitely begin the recycling process. Once we get into recycling we’ll see how much of that revenue generates some income for us.
“Our first thrust is to get everything under control, and our capacity to manage and prevent. Having achieved that, we’ll begin the process of identifying revenue streams to enhance our income and create some income for the general public.”
Mr Dean said New Providence Ecology Park planned to install new vehicle weigh bridges by October/November this year, which will enable it to better and more accurately calculate incoming garbage loads and levy tipping fees appropriately on waste services providers.
“That will certainly help us to capture what is going on and help us better organise the way forward,” he added. While the New Providence landfill site is not yet fully enclosed by a fence, Mr Dean hailed the presence of a “dynamic security detail 24/7” that was “patrolling at all hours of the night” and giving extra confidence to all users and businesses present.
The landfill’s deputy chair added that “maybe around $9m” of New Providence Ecology Park’s initial $20m capital raising had been invested to-date, with some 50 persons directly employed at the site by the operator.
Mr Dean said job numbers would likely increase as the landfill operator, now approaching three months into its 10-year agreement with the Government, started to move into its revenue generation stage.
“It’s come a long way,” he told Tribune Business. “I think we’re hitting at least 80 percent of our targets, accomplishing 80 percent of our objectives. In a couple of weeks we will have an open house for the public to see where we are.
“There’s much more to be done, but we’re making good strides and are comfortable with it.”