By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Wheelabrator Industries in Saugus, on the Revere line, got the word this past Friday that it is one step away from approval to fill in the “fingers” in the ash landfill.
The ash landfill dump was expected to be closed at the end of 2016, but Wheelabrator filed for an extension with the officials from state and federal agencies.
Friday’s report from the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) stated that Wheelabrator was not required to do an Environmental Impact Report that many of the opponents of the project had wanted. “But the Department of Environmental Protection (EPA) will conduct a detailed review of the project to determine consistency with regulatory standards and requirements, which will include the issuance or a provisional decision on the application for a major modification to a landfill for public review and comment,” was written in the MEPA decision.
The project proposed by Wheelabrator would fill two of five internal valleys of the “fingers.” The report states that work will not occur in wetland resource areas. The project will also regrade roughly 39 acres of the existing monofill, which is fill from a single source, in this case ash. The report states that Wheelabrator could opt to ship the ash to its facility in Shrewsbury but that would mean 26 round trip truck trips daily.
Finally, the report from Secretary Matthew Beaton, of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, stated that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has sufficient regulatory authority and can issue condition permits as necessary to avoid, minimize and mitigate project impacts.
“The project may proceed to permitting,” stated Beaton.
“We are very pleased to see the Secretary’s certificate concluding the MEPA process and to have the opportunity to advance our proposal for continued use of the monofill at our Saugus facility,” said Jim Connolly, VP of Environmental, Health and Safety for Wheelabrator. “Throughout the open and transparent process overseen by MEPA, we have believed and maintained the best solution to the region’s solid waste is the continuation of a process proven to be environmentally responsible and in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations and that preserves the many environmental and economic benefits provided to the community by Wheelabrator Saugus. We look forward to working with the DEP as it conducts a thorough analysis of our proposal during a process that will continue to provide opportunity for public engagement. Wheelabrator would like to thank all who attended the site visit and public consultation session to gather first-hand information on the existing operation and our proposal to continue operations. We also wish to thank the 871 people who provided supportive comments during the MEPA process.”
Beaton noted that he reviewed the Environmental Notification Form (ENF) and comments. His decision came after “careful deliberation.”
Notable contributors to the request to deny Wheelabrator’s extension were U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator Edward Markey,
Congresswoman Katherine Clark, Congressman Seth Moulton, State Rep. Lori Ehrlich (who represents part of Lynn), State Sen. Tom McGee, U.S. EPA (Wetlands Program) the Saugus Board of Health, Saugus Selectmen, Saugus Town Meeting, eight members of the Revere City Council, several non-profits including Division of Marine Fisheries, and individuals.
State Rep. RoseLee Vincent, who represents Revere and Saugus, said “We may have lost the battle but not the war.”
“I am truly disappointed but not surprised given the last 20 years of Wheelabrator,” she said referring to extensions that have be given in the past. “It appears we have no save.”
The Saugus Board of Selectmen sent a letter to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) in June opposing any expansion at the landfill, which has been in Saugus for over 40 years. The plant currently burn trash creating a byproduct of ash, which is stored on the property. The Saugus letter also asked MEPA for a full environmental impact report regarding the 160-acre landfill.
Opponents to the facility have cited health reasons with the ash from the stack of the plant landing on vehicles, boats, and property.
“We are weighing our options now, nothing is off the table,” Vincent said. “Trust me we are not defeated. We have major environmental groups fighting with us. All we asked for is an environmental impact report.