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A Disagreement over Meeting Dates

Panetta questions timing of Selectmen meeting on WIN Waste Innovations deal; Cogliano denies her request to wait until after DEP officials meet with town

 

By Mark E. Vogler

 

Saugus Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano has scheduled a meeting for Sept. 20 to begin discussions on WIN Waste Innovations’ proposed deal to pay the town up to $18 million in return for permission to extend the life of its ash landfill 25 years.

But the board’s Vice Chair, Debra Panetta, said she and her colleagues should wait until after a community meeting with Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) officials about the future of the ash landfill before considering WIN’s proposed Host Community Agreement (HCA). “We should wait for the Sept. 28 meeting so we can make an informed vote,” Panetta told The Saugus Advocate this week after Cogliano denied her request.

“I feel strongly that it would be imperative and prudent that before taking on any vote that we listen to what the DEP says. I think we should wait until the first meeting in October [Oct. 4] before discussing the Host Community Agreement,” she said.

Cogliano said he has no plans for rescheduling the Sept. 20 meeting. “I’m not waiting for anyone,” Cogliano said, in response to Panetta’s request.

“I’m the Chairman – not Deb. I’ll set the time and the agenda for our meetings and I will always do what’s in the best interest of Saugus,” he said. “If the DEP has a problem with plan A, I will be happy to deliver them plan B.”

State Rep. Jessica Giannino (D-Revere), whose district includes Precincts 3 and 10 in Saugus, and state Rep. Jeffrey Turco (D-Winthrop), along with the Alliance for Health and Environment, are hosting a meeting set for 6 p.m. Sept. 28 in the second-floor auditorium of Saugus Town Hall at 298 Central St. The hosts have invited MassDEP officials to appear at the meeting to answer questions about the future of the landfill. Citizens may submit questions in advance to allianceforhealthenvironment@gmail.com.

Members of the Landfill Subcommittee voted 5-1 with two abstentions in support of a motion to accept WIN Waste Innovation’s latest proposal and forward it to the Board of Selectmen. Cogliano, Selectman Corinne Riley, former Board of Health Member Joe Vinard, Precinct 10 Town Meeting Member Peter Delios and Saugus Fire Department Captain and Precinct 8 Town Meeting Member William E. Cross III all voted to support WIN Waste’s latest offer. Jackie Mercurio, a Saugus resident and local environmentalist who has been a vocal critic of the trash-to-energy plant, cast the lone opposition vote. Board of Health Chair William Heffernan and Health Director John R. Fralick III abstained from the vote.

The deal is contingent on whether MassDEP permits the company to expand an ash landfill that is expected to meet its capacity by the end of 2025. Any HCA would also require input and backing from town officials, particularly the Board of Health.

WIN Waste Innovation’s proposed HCA, if approved by the town and the state, would also require WIN Waste Innovations to:

  • Reduce NOx and other emissions below current permit limits in place at time of agreement that are protective of public health and environment
  • Conduct optimization testing to determine levels of additional NOx reductions
  • Fund the installation of one stand-alone ambient NOx monitoring station in Saugus
  • Request the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to update its 2016 health study of Saugus residents as it relates to the plant’s operations and the landfill
  • Provide $26,000 per year to fund an independent third-party consultant to inspect the waste-to-energy facility and monofil

A major obstacle to any deal would be whether MassDEP would allow extending the life of the ash landfill.

MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg shared his concerns in a Nov. 16, 2021, letter to State Rep. Turco: “Any future proposals for expansion would require a modification to the facility’s site assignment and approval from MassDEP and the Saugus Board of Health. As the landfill is located within an ACEC, an expansion of the landfill (including vertical expansion) would need to meet the site suitability criteria in the Regulations with respect to the site assignment. While an applicant is free to propose a site assignment modification, and MassDEP will review information submitted, based upon the information presently before MassDEP, the facility fails to meet the necessary site suitability criteria to allow for expansion within the ACEC and therefore would not receive a positive site suitability determination. Without a positive site suitability determination from MassDEP, a proposal to amend the facility’s site assignment to allow for vertical expansion would not advance to the Saugus Board of Health for consideration.”

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