Giannino Offers Testimony in Support of Legislation on Environmental Issues

State Rep. Jessica Giannino testified in support of three pieces of legislation that are currently before the Joint Committee on the Environment, National Resources, and Agriculture.

The three bills are: House Bill 930, An Act relative to landfills and area of critical environmental concerns; House Bill 931, An Act relative to Solid Waste Disposal Facilities; and House Bill 932, An Act relative to the closure of the Saugus Ash Landfill.

Following are Rep. Giannino’s remarks:

Good afternoon, Chairwoman Raush, Chairwoman Dykema and members of our honorable committee.  I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak in total support of House Bills 930, 931 and 932.

As many of you on our committee are aware, the constituents in my district are burdened by a myriad of industrial pollution.  But most notably is the nearly 50-year-old trash incinerator and a unlined ash landfill that are both are contained within an Area of Critical of Environmental Concern and that abut two rivers that flow into America’s First Public Beach. Further, and even more horrifying, this facility and its unlined landfill are less than a half mile from people’s homes, and it is totally unbuffered.

Though I will touch on all three bills, I really want to highlight H.931 for your consideration.  House Bill 931, which received a favorable report from the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture last session, seeks to give boards of health from abutting communities decision-making power over the siting and expansion of solid waste facilities.  This includes the boards of health of the municipality the facility is located in and any and all municipalities within one-half mile of the nearest edge of the proposed site.

Over 150,000 people live within three miles of the facility that is in my district, yet only those who live in the Town of Saugus have a say in its operation. Though the trash incinerator and landfill are physically located in Saugus, my constituents in Revere tend to be just as impacted, if not more impacted, by the facility’s operations because of its extreme close proximity to Revere.

The facility is directly across the Pines River from the City of Revere, less than a half mile from thousands of my constituents in the Riverside neighborhood. Beyond Riverside, residents of the Point of Pines neighborhood at the mouth of the Pines River, as well as people who live across the marsh in the Revere Street neighborhood also feel the impacts of the facility’s operations.

Anecdotally, for over six weeks during the course of summer, 2019, the people I represent in Revere and Saugus endured ungodly noises that were emanating from the plant 24/7.  However, because the facility is located in Saugus, Revere officials could not cite the company for exceeding acceptable decibel levels that kept my constituents awake all hours of the night for weeks on end.

What my neighbors and friends have had to endure is unacceptable by any reasonable person’s standards.  It should be noted that since November, 2016 my constituents in Revere and Saugus who live in the shadow of the Wheelabrator have had to endure these types of noise occurrences at all hours of the day and night no less than NINE times due to issues at the plant, again demonstrating that perhaps this facility is outdated for the 21st century.

If the noise issues weren’t concerning enough, there have also been a number of fires that that have burned at the plant that have caused concern for those who live in its shadows.  On at least two occasions in 2019 and 2020, there were fires in which my constituents from Revere contacted the DEP Emergency Line about smoke, which was blowing toward Revere, and complained about a smell of burning plastic and an electrical odor, as well as difficulty breathing.  As a City Councillor who represented the people who live less than a half mile from this plant at the time, I was deeply disturbed by these incidents, which showed that the company had no regard for its own employees and the people of the surrounding neighborhood.

I filed this legislation to give a voice to the voiceless Revere residents who live day-in and day-out with the impacts of the Saugus facility. Currently, there is no mechanism in our general laws that would allow the City of Revere to have an official say in the operations, permitting, and expansion of the Saugus facility. This bill would change that to give municipalities like Revere a fair opportunity to voice their input by allowing their boards of health to weigh in on matters that directly impact their residents. In addition to the physical siting of a facility, provisions in this bill would allow communities within one half mile to cite facilities like this for issues like noise and fire prevention violations.

Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution states that, “The people shall have the right to clean air and water, freedom from excessive and unnecessary noise, and the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic qualities of their environment.”

Across the Commonwealth, I am sure there are similar instances where solid waste facilities are within a half mile from municipalities other than the one it is physically located in.

It is time that we, as a legislature, stand up for and give abutting communities a voice because sometimes, as in my situation, the abutting community feels the impacts more than the host community.

Switching to House Bill 930 – I filed this bill to prevent expansion of landfills near or in Areas of Critical Environmental Concern.

This legislation would mandate that no new landfill, monofill, or ash landfill be built in or adjacent to areas of critical environmental concern, and requires that no existing landfill, monofill, or ash landfill located in or adjacent to an Area of Critical Environmental Concern be allowed to be expanded by increase in footprint, vertical height, or capacity for disposal.

Though there are cases where landfills within Areas of Critical Environmental Concern are allowed to exist because they are quote “grandfathered in,” common sense policy would be to prevent further expansion of these landfills.

Any expansion of a landfill that is in or adjacent to an Area of Critical Environmental Concern flies in the face of efforts to protect the Commonwealth’s natural environmental assets for future generations.

As such, we should codify into the General Laws a policy which would prevent expansion of landfills in Areas of Critical Environmental Concern to ensure that these environmental treasures are preserved for generations to come.

Finally, I just want to briefly touch on H.932.  This bill simply seeks to set forth provisions in our General Laws to ensure the timely closure of the Saugus ash landfill.  This unlined landfill was originally slated to cease operation in December, 1996, but over the years, the State and the Town have allowed the company to keep extending the life of the landfill.  To date, there is speculation that the landfill will once again reach capacity by 2024, but there are already active conversations about how the company can circumvent what is right and just by once again extending capacity limits beyond that date.

At this juncture in time, we should be discussing closure and remediation plans, yet, the company is already expressing interest in using the site for the dumping of ash indefinitely. Therefore, I hope the committee will give this bill a favorable report so that it may advance through the legislative process. It is time to require Wheelabrator to begin closure of this landfill, and plan for remediation to safeguard what is already there. 

In closing, I want to thank you for your time and consideration, and I hope that as a committee, we can move these bills out swiftly and favorably. Thanks again.

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