Eccles landfill likened to ‘environmental time bomb’

– Gov’t set to give BK the boot

Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan yesterday described the Haags Bosch sanitary landfill at Eccles, East Bank Demerara as a disaster and “environmental time bomb” declaring that BK International has failed in in its management of the site and government wants it gone.

“We are looking to have a parting of ways, a separation, a divorce in the central government and BK operating or responsible for management of that site because they have failed and we want them off of the site,” Bulkan told this newspaper yesterday when asked about the project.

Stabroek News had approached him on comments he was reported as making in the Guyana Chronicle where he indicated that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which funds the project, wanted BK removed from managing the site.

Ronald Bulkan
Ronald Bulkan

He said that the bank would not have expressed dissatisfaction with the contracting firm specifically but rather with the manner in which the site was being managed.

“…The fact is that there has been noncompliance actually from day one. So their grouse if you will is not with the contractor but it is with the performance and the fact that there has been noncompliance,” the minister said. But he said the IDB did not single out BK.

In a press release responding to the comments made by the minister in the Guyana Chronicle BK pointed out that it had no relationship with or obligation to the IDB on the landfill site but rather the bank has a relationship with the Government of Guyana (GoG). The firm pointed out that the GoG has a responsibility to effectively manage the project to the satisfaction of the funding agency, the IDB.

“If the IDB is not satisfied that the GoG is meeting the terms and conditions of the contract it may terminate the funding,” the firm said in the release pointing out that GoG and IDB signed the contract in 2007 and BK was not awarded the contract until November 2009.

According to the release, in a recent meeting with Minister Bulkan it was established that former Minister in the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill had instructed that BK be paid outstanding sums from January 2013 to May 2014 once found to be compliant. After review it was established that BK was in compliance and the payment was eventually made.

“The minister does not address the issue of the outstanding payments to BK International, which sums are/have been outstanding for more than a year,” the firm stated adding that while it has not been paid since June 2014 it continues construction and operations, handling more than twice the intended volume of waste arriving at the site.

It also stated that the ministry has failed to observe a clear order of the court mandating that BK be paid interim payments for its monthly operation of Haags Bosch, clearly having no regard for the rule of law.

According to Bulkan, while the current government would have met with the contracting firm, it was the past administration which in February would have written to BK asking that the firm vacate the site and given notice of its intention to terminate the contract. BK had refused to comply with the directive and instead moved to the court and secured an injunction directing the then government to show cause for its removal. Bulkan said that matter is now engaging the attorney-general’s chambers.

According to the minister the government is seeking to have an out-of-court amicable settlement with the firm.

“We are actually looking to bring a counter claim which might be greater than the claim that he has,” the minister said when asked if the settlement would involve paying the contracting firm.

He said the former government had “long ceased to have any confidence in BK’s management of that site and I think they were too lenient in not terminating that contract long before they finally made that decision in February of this year.”

He said that once BK is removed government would advertise for new firms to bid for the project since there are other firms with the capability to manage the site.

“It is hard to contemplate that any other contractor could do a worse job than what has been done” he said adding that the site is a “disaster, an environmental time bomb.”

Following the award of the $9,729,822 contract in November 2009, then local government minister Kellawan Lall had announced that the new landfill site would have been ready in a year. However, Haags Bosch was only opened in February 2011 and is still to be completed.

The landfill is designed to take in the waste of the entire Region Four, from Soesdyke to Mahaica, and to ensure that no foul odour emanates. It was also intended to make provisions for the trapping of fire-causing methane gas.

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