Ten year land poison saga plagues family

| 02/04/2015 | 30 Comments
Cayman News Service

Ash mound before it was spread on Powell’s land in 2006

(CNS): Following a ten year wrangle with government authorities across three different administrations, a North Side family is still waiting for government to clean up their land, which is laced with arsenic, and compensate them for the trouble. The arsenic contamination was caused during the post Hurricane Ivan clean-up and has left the Powell family’s 14 acres useless. Ten years after the catastrophic storm, the family says government has still not properly committed to the clean-up or agreed compensation for the poisoning of their land.

The Cabinet Office, which is dealing with the situation because of the Ivan connection, has said it has been doing its best to resolve the issue and has a clean-up plan organized but government is now waiting for the Powells to agree to it.

However, after ten years of wrangling with the authorities over what happened to the land, the family has lost trust in the authorities and they do not believe that government will follow through with any genuine clean-up operation or properly compensate them for rendering their land useless.

In the wake of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, former fire chief Charles Powell offered up his Frank Sound land as a temporary debris clearance site because the private sector company, MC Restoration, and the government’s own departments needed places to process the massive amount of debris created by the storm.

According to a letter dated 27 January 2005, Powell offered his land as a clearance site on the basis that he would be employed as the manager and receive 50% of the processed materials that could be used as fill, and that afterwards all hazardous materials would be removed and the land returned to its previous state. From the beginning things seemed to have gone awry, with disputes over what should and should not be processed, as well as Powell’s pay and the failure of both MC Restoration and government to remove the remaining trash.

When it was later discovered that the ash generated from the debris burning, which had been spread and mixed with soil on Powell’s land, was contaminated with arsenic, the family learned that their property could not be sold or developed until it was cleaned up.

Cayman News Service

Household hazardous waste on Powell land in August 2005

Charles Powell said he has been left with land that is not fit for anything and is now useless, despite being located very close to the new Clifton Hunter High School and not far from the proposed Ironwood project– ironically being developed by the former principals of MC Restoration. Powell said he has trouble leasing apartments already on the land because of the problem and feels that government is just not committed to putting right the damage.

“I tried to help, like many people did, in the wake of Ivan but now government does not want to help me,” he told CNS. “This has been a living nightmare,” he added, stressing his complete lack of trust in anything the authorities tell him since it has taken so long for them to address the issue, when they have known for years that the land is poisoned as a result of the material processed there post-Ivan.

Having conducted a number of surveys and reports, the Water Authority concluded that the land was not safe for development. In its most recent 2015 report on the property, it measured between 96.9 parts to 42.4 parts of arsenic in the soil and ash spread on the site, when a safe level is just 0.01 parts. The authority has confirmed that the land should not be used until it is cleaned up.

“As a result of the specific use of this site and the Water Authority’s environmental monitoring, there is a concern about the presence of arsenic above background levels typically found in soil and groundwater in the Cayman Islands,” Gelia Frederick-van Genderen Director, WAC told CNS in response to enquiries about the Powell’s land. “Whereas the Water Authority does not have the jurisdiction to prohibit development of the property, it would recommend a cautious approach.”

However, the Water Authority said it was working with the owner and other government agencies on further environmental investigation of the property and the removal of any remaining debris.

As the dispute rolled on from administration to administration, the current cabinet secretary, Samuel Rose, picked up the mantle in October 2013. In a statement from his office this week, officials said that since they first visited the property in December 2013, they have been coordinating an ongoing process with the Powells to address the concerns, which include both the clean-up of the property as well as a claim for financial compensation.

“While emphasis has been placed by the property owners on addressing financial compensation, the Cabinet Office has remained equally focused on addressing any potential environmental or public health concerns created by material processed on the site,” a spokesperson for the office said.

The office said it had coordinated the reports by the Department of Environmental Health, the Water Authority and the Department of Environment, which will be the agencies involved in the removal and analysis of the waste material as well as the environmental concerns.

“The Cabinet Office has ensured that Mr Powell and his family have at all times had full access to the agencies involved and demonstrated full transparency by sharing all reports and results of all tests that have been conducted,” officials said. “In order to bring this matter to a conclusion, the agencies involved have been preparing an action plan to clean up and mitigate the site. This includes conducting ongoing scientific analysis of the soil and coordinating logistics for the removal of the waste material without causing contamination of the surrounding property and water. The agencies involved have now provided their reports and drafted a combined work plan, which was shared with the Powell family on 11th March.”

The Cabinet Office said this all addresses the final clean-up of any remaining debris, as well as steps to mitigate any environmental concerns.

“The Powell family were invited to review and comment on the draft work plan and agree a date with the Cabinet Office to meet with the other agencies to discuss any outstanding concerns and to come to agreement on the final work plan,” the office said in an emailed statement to CNS Wednesday. “In response to a follow-up query by the Cabinet Office, the Powell family indicated on Tuesday that they will provide a response to the draft work plan by 10th April.”

Chad Powell, Charles’ son, said he believed the sudden response was because the family had threatened to take their saga public and “not because they wish to help”. Powell confirmed that they will be responding to the government’s latest proposals when the family has taken legal advice, as they continue to distrust the government on the issue after three different administrations have dragged out the situation and tried to dodge its responsibility.

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (30)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    They even have a Face Book & Twitter Page about it now!
    http://ibty.in/cbuUWv – FB
    http://ibty.in/EzdoY5 – Twitter

  2. Ivan's true heros says:

    If i recall 8:16 am this site was chosen after the Spotts Newlands residents became alarmed and concerned and vigorously objected about the dump site being set down in their neighborhood. This put the government in a very precarious situation about what to do with all the Hurricane Ivan debris, thus the developer of Ironwood move it to sites near to land they either owned and could operate near to. The government no doubt threw in those incentives to encourage the land owner to allow there property to be used. Question is What would you have done under those circumstances, Mr Powell save over 150 people one male person died from one of the shelters during the Storm after it collapse and became flooded. For you to come on here and make aspersions about his intent and character says alot about who you are and where you come from.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like the landowners tried to profit from the fall-out from Ivan and did a deal that they no longer like. Why are they entitled to a penny?

    • Anonymous says:

      Everyone has to live up to a “Contract” my friend, like it or not.
      What’s interesting is how little amount of respect is given to the environment.
      They should get whatever the “Contract” specified.

      The fact most people are missing is that the CI GOV engaged into a deal to complete a job, and then to complete the clean up process. Why does it take 10 Years to pass by and all they can find is excuses? If they did nothing wrong, they would have come clean by now….don’t you think?….

  4. Frank Sound Resident says:

    The problem is if Mr Powell site is that contaminated what about the now Ironwood site about to be developed the government is very hush hush about this nasty situation, but they know that site was used for the very same purpose but not a word from either them or the representative from that district. Some of debris are still left on the Ironwood site too. What ever happen to those supposed Environmental impact studies????by the D O E Protecting the environment my A$$?????

    • Anonymous says:

      You Seem to miss that the debris site East of Frank Sound Road did not burn like most of the other sites. As someone already stated here the burning of grated lumber creates the arsenic problem. Debris at this same site was meticulously collected and later removed. The crux of the issue is who spear the ash on Mr. Powell’s land and why? I don’t agree that someone should be compensated for significantly adding to a problem.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sounds Like someone struck a nerve!

      • Anonymous says:

        Did it burn at a higher or lower temperature?
        How come the DOE isn’t calling for an EIA given this information was known to them almost 10 Years ago?
        You seem to know a lot of details about the process, please share your specifics.

  5. Bobo says:

    If they do move it they are just going to pile on the next massive pile……caribbean people have no idea about the environment around them which is why their cars are so shinny they watch shinny tv s inside their shacks and they are surrounded by garbage …..prospect….Bodden town an example

  6. Stanley says:

    Thats just it, envy and jealousy of Mr Powell, that he will eventually be compensated for this piece of contaminated property… you black crabs are incredible!

    you overlook the significance of the toxic Chemicals which percolate into the water lens,and the environment.
    The health effect form these chemicals are potentially hazardous, and can potentially cause cancer.
    Not only, should this section of land be off limit to human life and civilization, but your GT landfill is also contaminated with the same chemical which is toxic, and has cancer causing elements, (Carcinogenic) we have the highest cancer rate in the hemisphere.

    You the people had an opportunity to shut this landfill, but your politicians choose not to, they used this as a political stunts, especially knowing how fool fool we Caymanians are!
    They fail to tell the truth about the toxic chemicals, this landfill has not only contaminated the water lens, but our marine life also. Have a good day!

  7. Anonymous says:

    10 years and CIG says they dealing with the Ivan matter!

  8. The Seeker says:

    So did this concentration of arsenic all come from the ash dumped on the land? If not, where did it come from? Was no one aware of the arsenic?

    • Anonymous says:

      It comes from timber, arsenic is used as a wood preservative and anti-termite treatment. Resorting to uncontrolled burning to dispose of it was extremely ill-advised but that was typical of the post-Ivan clear up, which was an environmental disaster.

      Tons of this timber was also collected and burned at other sites on Grand Cayman or
      dumped at Mt Trashmore. This is probably just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

      If Mr Powell was site manager ultimately it could be argued that he bought this about himself by not properly managing operations. It’s worth googling ‘arsenic wood treatment’ – the results make interesting reading.

      • Anonymous says:

        If the CI GOV (CIRO) who managed the process and deal new about this, they would have said so. Seems like there’s not much knowledge in the proper areas it should be. Why did they hide the reports for the past 10 years?
        Should be an interesting FOI.

        Why did MC Restoration not complete the project? They were given just over $10 Million to do so.

        • Anonymous says:

          Why did they hid the report on the GT landfill? through stupidity, ineptness and incompetence they have put the citizens of these Islands in an unhealthy state.

  9. Thor says:

    I would thought this would be a national crisis? Where is the department of environment and water authority? Wouldn’t this contaminate the water supply? Local crops? Cause health issues for residents? Instead of blaming each other we need to get this issue dealt with and fast. Soon enough you are going to see more health matters and birth defects with everyone living in paradise!!!!

  10. Kanye Ebanks says:

    Arsenic sells for about $320 per 100g. Seems Mr Powell may be sitting on a gold mine there.

  11. Anonymous says:

    CIG is not some disembodied entity. Its made up of people, mainly Caymanians. Why do you consistently fail to honour deals made, why is no one reviewing the original commitment and why is Mr Powell not lodging his claim with the court for failure to comply with contract. Or was there no contract?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Disgusting stupid island.

  13. Anonymous says:

    And we getting in bed with the MC guys again?…

  14. Anonymous says:

    As usual, the CI Government practices its time honoured tradition of sweeping its crap under the carpet, burying its head in the sand and resolutely ignoring all issues until they are made public.

    After 10 YEARS they still have failed to rectify this situation. I’ll bet that unless this goes to court, it will be passed on to the next government administration.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thought he would get some ash to fill his swampland he did…Now crying foul, he was warned but spread it anyway. Stupid is as stupid does.

  16. Crimea Rivers says:

    Ah, the old Cayman saga of jut trying to help. My heart bleeds because of course there was never going to be anything in it for Mr. Powell, he just wanted to help.

    • Anonymous says:

      He wanted to be paid !!!!!!!!!!Get real.
      anyways any sample that I bring back to the states for free testing comes up as contaminated, the dirt, the water etc . The county live in always wants to know where it comes from but I cant say

  17. Anonymous says:

    If they don’t don’t clean up their own backyard as promised ( Mt TrashMore ) what makes you think they will clean up yours as also promised. A promise is only as good as the word of the person making it. In this case it was made by the CIG, what does that tell you.

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