Improving the Caroni Ramsar Nature Reserve – Reducing the impact of the Beetham Landfill and surroundings in Trinidad

The Beetham Landfill is a non-engineered municipal waste disposal site situated at the edge of a Ramsar Mangrove Wetlands, specifically the Caroni Swamp Nature Reserve in Trinidad. Leachate and litter together with wastewater from Port of Spain pollute the Caroni Swamp.

On December 02, 2022, a consortium led by the Basel Convention Regional Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for the Caribbean (BCRC-Caribbean) and comprising of the Trinidad and Tobago Solid Waste Management Company Limited (SWMCOL) as well as the Technical Consultancy of the Union of Water Boards (TAUW bv) submitted an application and project plan to the Stichting TAUW Foundation, for a financial contribution to “Improving the Caroni Ramsar Nature Reserve – Reducing the impact of Beetham Landfill and surroundings in Trinidad”. This involved the proposal of an initial assessment of the spread of the litter, including microplastics, using innovative techniques, an assessment of options for pollution capture and preparation of a final package for the request of funding at international organizations for solutions to capture the problem at the Beetham Landfill.

On March 17, 2022, the consortium was notified of the approval of the application and the project plan. Following this, the project contract was signed on March 23, 2022. Members of the consortium held the Project Kick off Meeting on April 05, 2022. The Project will span a twelve (12) month period and is comprised of four (4) phases as follows:

  • Phase 1 – Site assessment and inventory of sources and pathway
  • Phase 2 – Conceptualize solutions for limiting impact on the swamp
  • Phase 3 – Prepare funding package and outreach to funding organisations
  • Phase 4 – Presentation of the results and outreach to the region via an online workshop

As part of the project, field investigations were conducted under Phase 1 of the Project, with a focus on the leachate dispersion from the edges of the Beetham landfill and pollution of secondary sources throughout the Caroni Swamp, to determine the migration of microplastics and heavy metals. This involved the collection of sediment and water samples from the Beetham landfill and peripheral areas (up to the Caroni River). 120 sediment samples and three (3) leachate samples were obtained in accordance with the sampling plan. This Activity began on Tuesday 19 April 2022 and involved six (6) days of site visits and sampling activities. These analytical results will be combined in a site assessment report. TAUW employees gave the BCRC-Caribbean team along with local stakeholders such as the University of the West Indies and others, the opportunity to join in field activities to build capacity. The results and experiences were shared through outreach in consultation with the Dutch Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago on Friday April 29, 2022.

Phase 2 of the Project involves conceptualizing solutions for limiting the impact of the landfill on the swamp. This phase will review the possibilities of existing technology for capturing microplastics and sediments to facilitate this. An assessment will be conducted to select the best available technical solution, and the selected techniques will be developed into a conceptual design for the leachate barrier system.

To ensure follow-up on the proposed activities at the Beetham Landfill and Caroni Swamp, Phase 3 will involve the preparation of a funding package to be shared with experts from international organizations like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm and Minamata Secretariats in order to garner additional funding based on the overall recommendations of the assessment.

Phase 4 will include presentation of the results and outreach to the region via an online workshop on environmental assessment and impact solutions for uncontrolled landfill sites. An article on the outcomes of the study and the conceptual design for the treatment will be written and presented for publication in a popular science forum.

These four (4) phases will aid in the fulfilment of the overarching aim of tackling the issue of pollution of the Caroni Swamp.

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