Premier David Burt has stated outright that “it is unconscionable that in 2021 we are forced to return – even temporarily – to landfilling our solid waste”.

He was speaking at a joint news conference with the Minister of Health, Kim Wilson and the Minister of Education, Diallo Rabain, to elaborate on the statements made in the House of Assembly on Friday (Nov 26), regarding “the updates to COVID-19 public health regulations, schools moving to Phase 2, and items pertaining to our borders and tourism”.

“What I find personally upsetting is the fact that we may be forced to do this at Marsh Folly,” said Premier Burt.

“The people who live in this area do not deserve this, and I can assure them and the public that whilst our hope is that we don’t have to do this, if we do, it will be for the shortest possible time – while we explore alternatives.

“The people of Bermuda continue to endure the results of a nightmare one-term Government who happily signed away our rights to the airport and broke the bank to support the America’s Cup – all while neglecting critical maintenance at Tyne’s Bay citing lack of budget – those decisions are costing the treasury daily, and also are now affecting our natural environment,” he added.

“The Public Works team continues to work day and night to deal with these issues, and I am grateful for their approach to the problems that have been measured, thoughtful, and in some cases remarkable as they do all that they can to provide this very important service.

“I want to publicly thank the team at Tyne’s Bay for their dedication in looking to resolve the issues the plant is facing – they have gone above and beyond for the people of Bermuda. And, I want to send a special thank you to the team that is working at Tynes Bay because you are doing your best. I have heard first-hand the stories of your dedication to working under incredibly difficult circumstances, and I want to say that your efforts are appreciated; they are noted and thank you on behalf of the Cabinet.”

In a Ministerial Statement issued earlier in the day, Acting Minister of Public Works, Wayne Furbert, said the Ministry is “preparing for its last resort for waste disposal – and that is reopening a portion of Marsh Folly for landfilling”.

“We anticipate needing to landfill for a period of perhaps one to two weeks while the boiler repairs are completed,” he added.

Describing “the present critical status of the Tynes Bay facility” as “our only means of Municipal solid waste disposal”, he said: “Should the facility fail, it will mean the country reverting to landfilling. Sadly I must report that we may very soon be at that point.

“For the last two weeks since my initial report a crew of specialist boilermakers from Europe have been working non-stop to make repairs to both boiler units at the plant. At the same time, our contingency system, which normally bales refuse during these times of outages, also suffered a critical failure.

“With the tentative timeframe to have both boilers back in operation being still two weeks away, we will simply not have room to store anymore garbage.

“As such, the Ministry is now preparing for its last resort for waste disposal – and that is reopening a portion of Marsh Folly for landfilling.

“We had hoped to avoid this outcome and have done so for the last ten years….but at this point the options are few.

“We anticipate needing to landfill for a period of perhaps one to two weeks while the boiler repairs are completed and the baling system is repaired. Once these alternatives are available, the landfilling will stop.

“The $10m we are planning to spend now only addresses the boilers, which are at the heart of the plant and the most vulnerable at this time. But there are still many critical auxiliary systems at Tynes Bay that are past obsolescence that can just as easily shutdown the plant if they are not soon replaced. So with life restored to the boilers, time will be of the essence to pursue the full solution of the $150m investment.”

On that note he said: “I’m pleased to report that the Ministry of Public Works in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance are meeting urgently to find creative financing solutions for such a large sum in our present financial state.”

Highlights of the Minister’s full statement:

Two weeks ago on November 10th, in a press conference, I spoke of the critical state of Tynes Bay and our need to invest heavily for it not to fail. I will give an update of the ongoing battle the engineers and technicians at Tynes Bay are waging to get the plant back up and running – and the serious challenges we are all facing in terms of the island’s ability to dispose of its waste.

In addition, COVID-19 and supply chain issues in Europe has exacerbated the repair of the baler, to the point where our own employees had to skillfully fabricate replacement parts, using 3D printing technology, to rebuild a hydraulic ram. But sadly, even these efforts to get the system up and running, have failed.

While we do have a replacement ram being air freighted, the timing for its arrival and the space left in the bunker to stock pile the refuse that is collected daily are simply at odds. In order to preserve what little space we have left, Bulky Waste material is already being diverted for shredding at the Marsh Folly location for later disposal at Tynes Bay, but even this will not buy us the amount of time we need.

With the tentative timeframe to have both boilers back in operation being still two weeks away, we will simply not have room to store anymore garbage.

As such, the Ministry is now preparing for its last resort for waste disposal – and that is reopening a portion of Marsh Folly for landfilling.

We had hoped to avoid this outcome and have done so for the last ten years….but at this point the options are few.

While time is not on our side, we as a government are committed to doing something about it. I reported two weeks ago that we are looking to invest some $7.5M into the plant to get it to a point of stabilization. Since that time, engineers have now received the actual pricing from specialized Waste-to-Energy Contractor ICE AG out of Switzerland for the full scope of works necessary to get the boilers through the next three to four years. While our original in house estimates were close, the true pricing is closer to $8.5 mil dollars.

That cost may still increase as much of it is based on the cost of steel and other materials, which are changing rapidly due to the global supply chain crisis.

With the cost of baling and other associated works such as Quality Assurance for insurance purposes, crane hire and other on island logistics added to this figure, the final total for the project may be closer to 9 to 10 million dollars and will take about 11 weeks for each boiler to be repaired. While this may seem like a lot money, for comparison, the cost of full replacement, which is what we really need at this point, is closer to $150m

And to be clear, the $10m we are planning to spend now only addresses the boilers, which are at the heart of the plant and the most vulnerable at this time. But there are still many critical auxiliary systems at Tynes Bay that are past obsolescence that can just as easily shutdown the plant if they are not soon replaced. So with life restored to the boilers, time will be of the essence to pursue the full solution of the $150m investment.

As mentioned, with the effects of the pandemic on supply chain and even getting people mobilized, these costs cannot be cast in stone and we are constantly balancing the risk of getting support here as quickly as possible while also providing COVID safety.

With the support of our specialist contractor we are aiming to execute the works in February of next year, leaving little time to even prepare, but the contractors and the Ministry are committed to getting the work done as soon as possible.

I will endeavor to continue to give updates on this critical work as it transpires.