By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The government is eyeing a $40m waste-to-energy package as part of a $140m solution to the post-Dorian clean-up challenges in Abaco.
Documents released ahead of next Monday’s “pledging” conference, in which the government has teamed with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to seek private sector funding for reconstruction, reveal that it wants to convert the waste generated by the storm into an energy-producing fuel.
Arguing that gasification has “significant advantages” compared to merely incinerating Dorian-related debris, the papers call for the creation of a waste-to-power gasification plant on Abaco to “help stabilise the cost of electricity for residents and eliminate further environmental damage at the landfill”.
Besides using existing technology as a power source for desalination, the government is also hoping to seize the opportunity provided by Dorian’s devastation to “enable The Bahamas-based development of waste management policy to eliminate industrial wastes, tires etc via gasification”
Other objectives, for which the government will be seeking private sector donations to fulfill, are the creation of “a waterside facility to take single-use plastic and other wastes for a fee, and use it as a feedstock to produce clean water and energy, while reducing volumes of ocean plastic”.
All this is designed to relieve the “additional stress” on Abaco’s Snake City landfill site following Dorian. That facility was described by the government’s report as “already struggling” with fires a “daily nightmare” for island residents.
As a result, the Ministry of the Environment and Housing’s $140m wish list also includes $50m to help with further debris clearance; $7.5m to rehabilitate the Snake City location; $3m to demolish unsafe structures; and a further $40m to help remove marine debris from Abaco’s waterways.
“In North Abaco, partially destroyed homes will have to be demolished and disaster waste and debris managed,” the government report said. “While people have started to return to their homes and businesses, the clean-up and demolishment of unsafe structures may pose serious health and environmental challenges that need to be considered....
“Managing debris relies not only on the mixed waste streams but also on volumes to be transported, and space is needed to allocate those. As activities are ongoing focusing only on the debris piled alongside the roads, and on clearing the shanty towns, the debris is being transported to a lay-down site in Spring City created for this purpose as well as to an engineered landfill cell (Snake Cay) that has been managed as a dumpsite for the last few years.
“The problem of different streams, including hazardous materials, as well as challenging volumes, has created an additional stress to a facility that was already struggling,” the Government paper continued. “Fires are the daily nightmare of this dumpsite, with all the health risks associated, not to mention the risk associated of having hazardous and inflammable materials dumped together.
“The lack of specific equipment for managing certain debris streams (as organic and vegetative debris, metals, wood) is definitely increasing the volumes being disposed after the hurricane, with the problem of increasing the leachate production as well as contributing to the carbon footprint.”
The Government report added that the Snake Cay site, located off the Great Abaco Highway and known as the Great Abaco Sanitary Landfill, had been “severely impacted as a result of the large quantities of unsorted debris being deposited on site”.
It said: “The mishandling of the landfill, the scarcity of oversight, and the absence of a landfill management plan have resulted in a number of negative impacts, including multiple on-going fires.
“In order to rejuvenate this site and re-engineer the landfill, all efforts would be made to re-design the footprint with a view to reconstructing the engineered cell and leachate collecting system. This would require extensive renovations of the site and the implementation of a landfill management team to oversee the daily operations in a scientific manner using proper landfill equipment and data collection methodologies.”