By Adam Swift
City and state officials had strong words after hundreds of residents reported hearing what sounded like an explosion at the WIN Waste Innovations facility (formerly known as Wheelabrator) on Rte. 107 in Saugus.
Emergency crews were called to the site on Monday evening when some 100 residents called 911 after hearing what sounded like an explosion at the facility, according to Acting Mayor Patrick Keefe. For years, Revere residents, especially those in the nearby Point of Pines and Riverside neighborhoods, have raised concerns about operations at the nearby Saugus waste facility.
“We’ve lost count of how many times our residents have been frightened and concerned by yet another malfunction at the Wheelabrator site,” said Keefe. ”Monday night, again, residents in Saugus and Revere anxiously waited for any bit of information that might explain what sounded like an explosion around 8:30 p.m.”
In a Facebook post, Saugus Firefighters Local 1003 stated the loud noise was caused by a turbine malfunction, and that there were no injuries as a result of the incident.
In a statement, WIN Waste Innovations characterized the incident as an “upset condition” that occurred around 8:25 p.m. Monday evening. According to the company, the plant was taken offline and the noise subsided after about 20 minutes.
WIN Waste stated that it will continue to work diligently to ensure the silencers are functioning properly and apologized for the disruption.
The “upset condition” more than upset local leaders who have spoken out against ongoing operations at the facility over the years.
“Monday night at approximately 8:30 I was startled by what sounded like a fighter jet flying inches from my house,” said state Representative Jessica Giannino. “As I rushed outside, my fear turned to anger when I realized the roar wasn’t a jet – it was what can only be described as a continuous eruption of the unknown coming from Win Waste Saugus.
Giannino said the incident was the latest in a long list of examples demonstrating why this facility must be shut down.
“I’m tired of the excuses,” she said. “Thankfully, no one was injured.”
Councillor-at-Large and mayoral candidate Dan Rizzo said he has been speaking out about the situation with WIN Waste for years, and that with the latest incident, the environmental concerns have only been compounded by public safety risks.
“If we really want to get serious about environmental issues, let’s start with Wheelabrator,” said Rizzo.
Rizzo said he understands the need to transport trash someplace, but that it shouldn’t be at a facility in a congested area that has been allowed to operate on expired permits for years. He added that the facility does not meet modern standards.
“If this was being proposed today, it wouldn’t be approved,” Rizzo said.
Keefe said he has sided with Revere residents who live in the Riverside and Point of Pines districts east of the incinerator site in their effort to force the Commonwealth to order the facility closed, and suggested that he expects another in a series of ‘band-aid’ explanations that will do little to address the underlying problem.
“Not only does the facility continue to allegedly pose a health risk to everyone within its reach, not only does it foul the unlined land that holds tons of ash—with more every day–but it threatens the very serenity of home life given its deplorable record of maintenance and upkeep,” Keefe said. “And we get an earful of lip service and lukewarm apologies for ‘any inconvenience.’”
Keefe posed the hypothetical question that keeps many of his constituents awake at night: “Will this only end after a catastrophe? Is that what the Department of Environmental Protection is waiting for?”