By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Monday night in a meeting held by the Saugus Board of Health, State Rep. RoseLee Vincent said that it is time to close the Wheelabrator facility on the Route 107 also known as the Marsh Road.
Vincent has filed legislation to stop Wheelabrator Technologies from receiving additional permits from the Department of Environmental Protection to expand the ash pile. Vincent said that since 1996 nine permit extensions have been granted. She said that the plant impacts the Point of Pines and the Oak Island area, as well as East Saugus.
The meeting took place in Saugus at the public library with a standing room crowd. Ward 5 City Councillor John Powers and Elle Baker, of Revere on the Move and a student at the University of New Hampshire studying this environmental issue, also spoke. Residents from Saugus and Lynn, as well as Wheelabrator officials also packed the room for two and a half hours. City Council President Jessica Giannino could not attend the meeting but she sent a letter to be read into the record.
She stated, “The City of Revere is greatly troubled with the potential expansion of the unlined ash landfill in Rumney Marsh…for whatever reason the Department of Environmental Protection has afforded Wheelabrator several modifications to its consent decree, allowing the landfill to remain open. Wheelabrator should not be allowed to expand the existing ash pile at the expense of the health and welfare of the residents of Revere, Saugus and Lynn.”
Vincent filed House Bill 4041 to close the landfill, which is currently under consideration by the House Committee on Ways and Means. Monday night she called for no further expansion of the landfill. She also said the City of Revere is more impacted by Wheelabrator than Saugus.”
“Today the DEP never would allow this plant to be built in a wetland and a half a mile away from people’s homes and next to the Pines and Saugus rivers,” Vincent said. “It seems you use the consent order to circumvent the town (of Saugus). I am calling for a closure of the landfill.:
Revere residents are closely monitoring information coming out of Saugus regarding Wheelbrator Technologies. The facility burns garbage brought in from several communities, it is turned into energy and the ash is the by-product which is buried onsite in an unlined landfill.
Debra Panetta, chair of the Saugus Board of Selectmen, said particles in the ash allegedly contain cadium, lead, mercury, dioxin, carbon monoxide and acid gas.
Several people are concerned about the impact on the Saugus and the Pines rivers, which meander through the salt marsh. People are concerned of a catastrophic storm and flooding disturbing the ash pile and contaminating the water.
“The landfill is a ticking time bomb,” said Saugus Town Meeting member Peter Manoogian. “If a storm occurs we cannot protect our waterways.”
Saugus Selectmen Jeff Cicolini, president of the Point of Pines Yacht Club, said he owns a white boat that turns grey often.
A woman from West Lynn who can see the stacks from her window said that half the time the plume travels toward Revere, Nahant, Swampscott and Marblehead.
Powers, who lives in the Oak Island, Pines area, told the crowd how his 63-year-old wife died of lung cancer. He also talked about the alarms going off at the plant.
“I believe with the number of deaths (lung cancer) that the incinerator could be responsible in some part,” Powers said.
Baker added that 10 percent of the ash is allegedly considered toxic. She also pointed out that if the ash is not covered it can certainly blow around in the wind. As a resident of the Point of Pines area, Baker said three people on one street had the same tumor. Besides the cancer study, Baker asked about other diseases such as asthma and COPD.
“The report is not a full health assessment,” Baker said. “And the data used is old.”
Wheelabrator officials said that there was a recent incident of 22 pounds of ash spilling on a concrete floor because a hatch was open due to a broken latch.
Wheelabrator recently released a study that they requested from the state regarding the risks of cancer in Saugus. But the study did not include Revere or Lynn. Passersbys for miles can often see steam coming from the stacks when garbage is burned.
Jim Connolly, Wheelabrator vice president environmental, health and safety, said the landfill will be at capacity by the second half of 2017. The landfill was supposed to shut down in Dec. 2016, but a flyover in December revealed that there was more space to bury ash. From 1950-1975 the area was a garbage dump and the ash has been buried on top. In 1987 acid scrubbers were installed to reduce emissions. The Wheelabrator facility covers 235 acres. Formerly known as RESCO, owners of the facility have donated parks, money and other items to the town of Saugus.