By Sue Ellen Woodcock
When the state turned down a request by residents to stop more ash being placed in the landfill at Wheelabrator on Route 107 in Saugus, State Rep. RoseLee Vincent told herself and anyone around her that “they (Wheelabrator) may have won the battle, but not the war.”
She still firmly believes that, and so does her social action group, Alliance for Health and Environmental – Clean Water Action, Toxic Action, Conservation Law Foundation, MASSPirg, SAVE, Friends of Belle Isle Marsh and more.
Last year she filed legislation to stop expansion of the ash landfill during the last legislative session and plans to file more legislation when the next session begins in January.
In June of this year, MEPA (Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act) issued a decision that stated that Wheelabrator did not have to do an environmental impact report on expanding the landfill on Route 107.
James Connolly, vice president of environmental health and safety for Wheelabrator, said, “The Environmental Impact Review process followed by MEPA was applicable and appropriate to the size and scope of this project. Wheelabrator asked for and was granted extensions of the comment period to allow for complete public comment. We believe the public support we received reflects our commitment to the community and our safe operation of the facility. We are currently working on our application for a modification of the solid waste facility.”
“My confidence in the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection)has really been shattered,” Vincent said. “All we asked for was an environmental impact report. That’s all we were looking for MEPA to grant,” Vincent said, noting the thousands of letters and support from citizens, politicians and more.
“Conservation Law, and MASSPirg said that they looked into the issue and became very very interested in it,” added Vincent.
“This ash landfill has been going on for 40 years. For 40 years one small area of the state has bore the brunt of waste for the entire region. It’s not fair and at some point you have to sit back and say enough is enough,” said Vincent.
“It was supposed to close 20 years ago but they keep expanding with this consent decree order from DEP. Since then, this area of Rumney Marsh has become an area of critical concern. By today’s standards it could never be put where it is.
“We lost the MEPA decision – ok – now they have to go through a review. I have requested that they have a public hearing and not at Wheelabrator like they did in the past,” Vincent said. She is seeking to hold a public hearing at the ITAM (Italian American Club) in Saugus and another public hearing for permitting process.”
Permitting is the next step.
The only unlined ash landfill in the state of Massachusetts, an ash landfill and an incinerator on the same facility, Vincent said. The other Wheelabrator facilities are all lined and meet the current standards. In Saugus the facility is surrounded by Environmental Justice Communities “and with that come certain level of responsibility.” Vincent is also not pleased with donations to communities from Wheelabrator.
“Wheelabrator is very generous with everyone. What they really need to do instead of looking to expand is to be looking to see how they can protect the environment and my constituency,” Vincent said. “Look at ways to protect what is already there. It’s frustrating. It’s like David and Goliath.”
“We really do, after 40 years, need to find a plan. We can’t keep burdening the surrounding communities. They need to find a plan. Just because something is easier doesn’t make it right.”