Disappointed with Wheelabrator Decision by State Officials

In the wake of last week’s announcement by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to grant a final permit to Wheelabrator Saugus to extend the life of its ash landfill, local officials and respected environmental advocacy groups are expressing strong disapproval of the Baker administration’s decision.  Under the permit, Wheelabrator will now be able to uncap 39 acres in two drainage valleys and fill them with over 500,000 tons of incinerator ash over the next five to 10 years.  The Alliance for Health and Environment is mulling an appeal to the decision.

“All options, including litigation, are on the table in light of the MassDEP’s questionable decision.  This conversation does not end with the granting of this permit,” said State Rep. RoseLee Vincent. “The Saugus landfill is not meant to be a forever solution to the region’s solid waste issues.  This permit extends the life of the only unlined landfill in Massachusetts for the next five to ten years.  In the conditions set forth under the permit, MassDEP should have required that Wheelabrator begin preparing a plan for closure of the landfill, but yet again, the administration missed the mark.  Residents and officials must continue to be vocal and vigilant to demand that at the very least, this is the last time Wheelabrator’s landfill is granted an extension.”

“According to Wheelabrator’s own data, 80 percent of the trash it burns can be composted or recycled. The Commonwealth should be enforcing its zero waste regulation, not expanding an unlined landfill with another 500,000 tons of toxic ash,” said Kirstie Pecci, Director of the Zero Waste Project, Conservation Law Foundation.

“By approving a 10-year expansion of Wheelabrator’s ash landfill in Saugus, MassDEP missed a crucial opportunity to protect the valuable natural resources of the Rumney Marshes Area of Critical Environmental Concern by closing and securing this coastal landfill once and for all.  With rising seas and increasingly damaging coastal storm surge,

“Saugus, Lynn, and Revere residents deserve better from the MassDEP,” said Sofia Owen, attorney and Eastern Massachusetts organizer for Toxics Action Center.  “Rather than granting a permit for Wheelabrator to continue to burn waste and dump ash into a landfill, the state should be focused on promoting solutions that protect people’s health, reduce waste, spur local green economic innovation and offer safe and well-paying jobs to area residents.”

“With this permit decision, the Baker administration just formalized its position of disregard for environmental justice and the health of families living in the shadow of Wheelabrator in Saugus,” said Cindy Luppi, Clean Water Action New England Director. “Shame on them – we will not stop fighting!  We will certainly be exploring all avenues open to us to seek justice for Saugus and its neighbors.”

“Saugus, being the host community of the incinerator and the landfill, should have a voice in what happens in our town.  After over 20 years of having a strong public outcry that this landfill needs to be closed, MassDEP continues not only to allow Wheelabrator to expand, but to uncap 39 acres – which is counterintuitive,” said Debra Panetta, Chair of the Saugus Board of Selectmen.  “We have continuously stated that the landfill was supposed to be closed in 1996.  We explained that it’s in an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

“SAVE is both disappointed and disheartened that MassDEP has, once again, decided to extend the closure date for the ash landfill in Saugus and place additional fill in two valleys of the landfill,” said Ann Devlin, President of Saugus Action Volunteers for the Environment.

“I am deeply saddened by this decision, not only for the current residents of Revere and Saugus, but for the future generations to come.  This decision shows a blatant disregard for the health and well-being of all who surround this facility.  The disregard for the wetlands, public health and opinions of residents is quite evident in the state’s decision,” said Revere City Council President Jessica Giannino.  “It is my hope that we can be proactive to ensure that this is the last expansion and effort to keep this facility active.  The residents and representatives of Revere and Saugus must stay vigilant and continue to fight for what we believe.”

“What a sad day it is when MassDEP  and the Baker administration ignore an outcry from so many people, political leaders, and environmental specialists advocating to stop an expansion of the ash landfill to protect abutting neighborhoods, and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern,” said Joanne McKenna, president of the Friends of Belle Isle Marsh.

The MassDEP’s final decision can be viewed here: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/04/09/wsi-fepmod.pdf.

Rep. Vincent represents Saugus, Chelsea and Revere in the Massachusetts House of Representatives

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