By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Concerned citizens of Saugus and Revere attended a public hearing in Saugus on Nov. 30 as the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) held a public hearing regarding Wheelabrator, the trash-to-energy plant on Route 107 in Saugus.
Last month the DEP issued a provisional decision approving Wheelabrator’s application to continue using the ash monofil. The proposed modification of the ash landfill would provide an estimated 400,000 yards of additional disposal capacity, according to the DEP. This would allow for up to 10 more years of operation.
Ed Coletta of the DEP said the application from Wheelabrator was a major permit modification for additional fill in two of the valleys of the landfill.
The two and a half-hour hearing featured 53 speakers and a number of Revere residents, including State Rep. RoseLee Vincent, and Revere City Councillor Anthony Zambuto.
Vincent began the evening with steadfast opposition to the plant.
“This is the first time in 20 years my constituents are able to voice their concerns about Wheelabrator Saugus, and I am adamantly opposed to any further expansion of the Wheelabrator ash landfill,” Vincent said. “There are 140,000 people living in the footprint of this plant in a three-mile radius. I ask you to deny Wheelabrator. This landfill was never meant to be a forever solution.”
Wheelabrator’s Vice President of Environment rebutted what a few speakers had to say.
“First and foremost the ash is non-toxic,” Connolly said, something determined by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Connelly explained that Wheelabrator doesn’t have a traditional landfill liner, it is a clay soil barrier-wall with a leachate collection system that serves the same function and meets the same standards for protecting groundwater as more typical plastic liners.
Zambuto said that he had confidence in the DEP and he supports Wheelabrator.
“I know I’m protected by the DEP and my citizens are protected by the DEP,” Zambuto said. “When you tell me something is non-toxic I believe you.”
“Unfortunately the arguments against the plant are emotional and not based on science and facts,” Zambuto said.
He added that if Wheelabrator had to truck the ash off-site to another facility in Shrewsbury that could mean 50-60 trucks runs through the city of Revere on a daily basis.
“How does that work out for you carbon footprint?” he asked.
“We have great pride in the role we play in the region’s environmental infrastructure,” said Peter Kendrigan, plant manager of the Saugus facility. “We also provide jobs, pay taxes and support local organizations.”
Other Revere residents, many from the Point of Pines and Riverside areas, also testified. Keven O’Malley, who lives on the Pines River, said he sees the plant every day.
“Decades ago this plant was scheduled to be closed,” he said. “Why hasn’t it been closed? There are other alternatives.”
Point of Pines resident Elle Baker, founding member of the Alliance for Health and the Environment, said the facility has piled ash on top of a dump and now it has reached its capacity.
“Ask the DEP to close this landfill,” Baker said.
The comment period for the plans has been extended to Jan. 12, 2018. Comments can be emailed to [email protected] or mail to: Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Northeast Regional office, Solid Waste Management Section. Attention: Mark Fairbrother, chief; 205B Lowell St., Wilmington, MA 01887
A draft of the decision is available at https://www.mass.gov/service details/wheelabrator-saugus-inc-ash-landfill-saugus.