At a Saugus Board of Health of meeting Monday night, a Wheelabrator official responded to concerns expressed by Revere residents that excessive noise was coming from the waste-to-energy facility during a 10-day period in June.
The noise was caused by a malfunctioning steam turbine that has been repaired.
Jim Connolly, Wheelabrator Technology vice president of Environmentl Health and Safety, attended the meeting and addressed the audience following remarks by Saugus and Revere residents. In a statement to the media, Connolly said, “Wheelabrator Saugus takes seriously our commitment to being a good neighbor. When we received complaints associated with recent repairs to the facility, we took immediate steps to resolve the issue.
“We also communicated regularly with the appropriate town officials in advance of, and throughout the repair process,” continued Connolly. “Nonetheless we understand that the noise inconvenienced some of our neighbors.”
Connolly added that Wheelabrator is conducting engineering evaluations to determine additional steps to minimize noise during future repairs.”
William Haffernan, chair of the Saugus Board of Health, stated at the outset that Monday’s public forum was being held “to make their feelings known about the noise.”
State Rep. RoseLee Vincent, whose district includes Saugus and Revere, and Revere residents Elle Baker and Loretta LaCendra, spoke at the forum.
“I am here to voice my deepest concern over the safety, health, and environmental impact that the oldest incinerator in the country (circa 1975) has on the people I represent in Saugus and Revere,” said Vincent. “The recent and unprecedented noise assault on our neighborhoods that lasted for well over six weeks is unconscionable.
“It is a very real signal that there is something very wrong with this nearly 50-year-old incinerator,” said Vincent. “Although the 24/7 noise has somewhat abated, it’s still occurring, and is a clear indication that this incinerator does not, and will not meet the same standards that are afforded to people who live in other communities across the Commonwealth.”
Vincent called upon the Board of Health “to finally hold Wheelabrator accountable for their actions.”
Baker, a founding member of the Alliance for Health and Environment (who held a pre-meeting press conference outside Saugus Town Hall), said she is a neighbor to Wheelabrator “along with 600 Revere residents living within a half-mile” of the facility.
“We live here and we have a right to clean air, clean water and to be free from excessive noise,” said Baker, who illuminated on other public health concerns about Wheelabrator in her remarks.
LaCentra said she came to the meeting to discuss “what I call the three Ws: Wheelabrator, why, and worry.”
“Why are they [Wheelabrator] allowed to disrupt our sleep over and over again causing sleeplessness, stress, and hearing loss with their noise levels?” LaCentra asked.
Turning her address to the “worry” portion of her comments, LaCentra said, “We shouldn’t have to worry about being unable to sleep or being woken up out of a sound sleep by noise that continues over the course of weeks or months.”
Among the Revere city officials in attendance at the meeting were Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto and Ward 5 Councillor John Powers. Zambuto pledged at the July 29 City Council meeting that he would attend the Saugus public forum. Zambuto, a long-time councillor who is seeking re-election in November, followed through on his pledge, taking his seat in the back of the hall and listening intently to each speaker.
Powers commented after the meeting, “I was very happy to see the Saugus Board of Health take up this very important issue,” said Powers. “I’ve visited the site [Riverside in Point of Pines] often as a result of phone calls from the many residents who have heard the noise. I’m troubled by the fact that the Saugus Board of Health has allowed this noise pollution to continue for this long a period of time.”
Heffernan, who noted he grew up in Saugus “in the shadow of Wheelabrator (formerly RESCO),” asked Wheelabrator to continue to have an open line of communications between the company and the town.
“We need to come together again. We need to sit down and we need to talk,” said Heffernan, thanking Wheelabrator officials for their attendance at the meeting. “We heard the constituents of Lynn, Saugus, and Revere clearly. We’ve been given an awful lot of information tonight. I guess my main point would be that we would appreciate it if Wheelabrator would consider attending our monthly meetings. I think things like this could have been avoided.”
Heffernan said the Board of Health will confer with its legal counsel to determine the next step forward for the town of Saugus.
“We are here as volunteers to serve the public trust and protect the health and well-being of the citizens of both Saugus and the surrounding communities,” Heffernan concluded.