Wilson: Burning of debris a “last resort”

Wilson: Burning of debris a “last resort”
A home in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, left in ruin nearly two moths after the passage of Hurricane Dorian (FILE PHOTO: ROYSTON JONES JR)

Govt. minded to chip, grind and crush debris

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Ministry of the Environment and Housing Senior Deputy Director Thomasina Wilson yesterday said air curtain burning is a “last resort” option that has not been endorsed by the government.

The ministry’s Debris Management Plan (DMP), prepared by Wilson, includes air-curtain burning as one of the cost-effective methods of removing debris from storm-ravaged Abaco and Grand Bahama.

However, there has been some public backlash to the proposal included in the document.

“The government is not really considering that particular option,” she told Eyewitness News Online.

“In my plan, I outlined all of the various different options.”

She continued: “That would be a last, last, last resort. They would be more minded to embrace the mulching and the shredding of the wood waste or any vegetative debris, so it can be a viable product that can be used again.”

The Debris Management Plan, dated November 12, underscores the Hurricane Dorian debris mission will be expensive.

However, it states millions of dollars could be saved by taking a “radical approach”, which included air-curtain burning of debris on smaller cays.

An air curtain incinerator (ACI) is a pollution control device for open burning.

The document also calls for the reduction and removal of debris by chipping, grinding and crushing to recycle vegetative debris, which the ministry said is critical on the affected islands where storm surge swept away good topsoil.

Asked whether the government was minded to perform air-curtain burning of debris in certain instances, Wilson said: “It is not so much that they are not minded. The plan is a working document. We were putting forward all the various options of waste minimization and on the smaller cays these are some of the options that should be considered. I am not saying the government has endorsed that particular method of debris reduction.”

She said ultimately the best option will be selected in each instance.

Wilson, who visited portions of Abaco yesterday, said debris was being segregated and transported via barges from the smaller cays to the safety disposal site and set down sites on the mainland.

Set down sites are located in Spring City and Treasure Cay.

Debris types include, mulch, unprocessed woody debris, ash, metals, rubble, asphalt shingles, inoperable white goods and gasoline powered tools; and electronic waste.

The report outlined numerous “practical applications” for various types of debris collected and sorted at debris management sites.

It said mulch material can be used around the islands.

The report noted that logs can be used in the rebuilding process as long as a mill or portable mill is available; ash can be recycled into forest soil amendments as a lime substitute; metals shall be separated into ferrous and non-ferrous metal using metal maulers and shredders and sold to metal recycling firms; rubble reduced by crushing can be used as a sub-based pavement in infrastructure projects; and asphalt shingles can be recycled and given to the Department of Works for asphalt paving and pothole repair.

The plan calls for total debris removal in 180 days; however, Wilson said given the complexity of the work it could take longer than that.

The ministry estimated that more than 900 workers will be needed to execute the plan.

Wilson was unable to say how many workers had been engaged to date, noting that the efforts to fulfill the plan were fulfilled by volunteers from international organizations.