Acting on a motion by Councillor-at-Large Jessica Giannino, the City Council voted by a 10-1 margin to send a letter to the Department of Environmental Protection, requesting that Wheelabrator, Saugus, be held to the same emission standards as all other incinerators in the state. Giannino stated in her motion that Wheelabrator has been the only incinerator to ask for a special waiver. Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto cast the lone dissenting vote, saying that the letter was “a moot point.” “Since Wheelabrator opened 25 years ago, they have been operating at 185 parts per million on emissions,” said Zambuto. “The standard right now is 205 parts per million.
The DEP is now getting ready to implement a new standard of 150 parts per million. So they’ve issued a conditional permit to Wheelabrator to continue functioning up there. And as part of that permit, the rule is that Wheelabrator has to comply with the 150 parts per million standard. If they don’t, they won’t be allowed to operate. So this letter to DEP that was approved tonight, it’s a moot point. I absolutely support 150 parts per million as the standard. Wheelabrator has to comply or they will be closed down.” Giannino began the discussion, stating, “Basically we’re just asking them to be held up to the same standards as every other facility like theirs in the rest of the country.” Giannino said that State Rep. RoseLee Vincent has been working on the issue “diligently” and the representative addressed the Council at the meeting.
“Once again I stand before you to talk about the oldest incinerator in the country that will never, ever, ever meet today’s standards, contrary to what people are saying – and that’s a fact,” said Vincent. “Some people like to call us that we’re talking and speaking with emotion, but that’s not accurate. It is a fact that unless Wheelabrator, Saugus, does major modifications, they will never able to meet the same standards as every single incinerator in Massachusetts. Wheelabrator was the only incinerator that requested a waiver. I think that we, as a city, need to hold this company accountable for what they’re doing.” Loretta LaCentra, a resident of the Riverside neighborhood, thanked Councillor Giannino for drafting the letter to DEP.
“These limits are designed to reduce the amount of certain pollutants that are released from Wheelabrator’s smokestack,” said LaCentra. “Mass. DEP adopted these standards because they match or are stricter than the federal limits under the Clean Air Act. The Act is designed to protect public health, including the most sensitive populations such as our seniors and our children.” A Mass. DEP public hearing on the issue will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Saugus High School.