State Appeals Court upheld Superior Court ruling that trash-to-energy plant has valid site assignment, DEP issued proper permit for ash landfill modification and facility poses no threat to public health or the environment – contradicting Board of Health claims
The town’s Board of Health has lost another court battle in its efforts to challenge a permit issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) nearly four years ago which allowed expansion of WIN Waste Innovations’ (formerly Wheelabrator) ash landfill adjacent to its trash-to-energy plant on Route 107. In a 13-page opinion rendered last week (March 2), the Massachusetts Appeals Court upheld an earlier Suffolk Superior Court ruling that MassDEP’s April 2018 permit was valid and that there was no evidence to support the Board of Health’s appeal.
The Board of Health had appealed MassDEP’s decision to modify the facility’s operating permit, claiming it was improper because the facility lacked a valid site assignment. The board had also contended that MassDEP’s claim that modification of the operating permit was not a threat to public health, safety or the environment or endangered species and their habitat was unsupported by substantial evidence. But a superior court judge rejected the Board of Health’s claims, as did the Appeals Court.
“The board argues first that there is no valid site assignment permitting the dumping of ash at the facility,” notes the Appeals Court in its decision. “We disagree. The Saugus facility, under various owners, has been operating as a dumping ground for rubbish and refuse since prior to July 25, 1955,” it continued.
Furthermore, the Appeals Court added, “We conclude that the original 1955 site assignment allowed the facility to accept ash for disposal.”
“Second, we are unpersuaded by the board’s assertion that a ‘sanitary landfill is one that accepts municipal trash’ and not Ash,” it added.
James Connolly, WIN Waste Innovation’s Vice President–Environment, hailed last week’s court ruling as reinforcement that MassDEP had made the right decision and the company had done nothing improper. “We are very pleased that the Appeals Court has reaffirmed that the DEP’s issuance of the permit is based on our having a valid site assignment and supported by substantial evidence that the modification to the monofill is not a threat to public safety, health, the environment,” Connolly said in a written statement this week.
“We look forward to continuing the positive and productive conversations we have held with the Board of Health and the Landfill Committee for the past 15 months and working in partnership with Saugus and the other communities we serve,” he said.
At Monday’s (March 7) Board of Health meeting, Connolly briefed board members on the court’s findings, noting that the Appeals Court ruling “affirmed that the landfill did have a valid site assignment and has had one since 1955.”
“Once again, the courts upheld that we are meeting the standards and I’m glad that this is behind us and we can continue to operate under that previously issued permit and we can focus again on working cooperatively with the town toward our shared future,” Connolly told the board.
The Board of Health still has the option of appealing further to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. But Board of Health Chair William Heffernan sought to stress a positive working relationship between the Board of Health and WIN Waste Innovations. “I’m sure the town isn’t happy about taking it on the chin there, but I think, more importantly, your point about moving forward in good faith collaboration – I think we’ve been doing that over these past, probably, eight to 10 months,” Heffernan told Connolly.
“I’d like to continue to see that. Hopefully, we can enter into a time of peace here. A little peace time vs. war time, and like I said, work collaboratively together and really try to make a difference in the community. That’s my hope,” he said.
The Appeals Court decision, in addressing three major issues initially raised by the Board of Health, concluded that:
- The trash-to-energy plant has a valid site assignment.
- MassDEP was correct in issuing the permit for the ash monofill in 2018 (known as the valley fill permit) while determining that the facility didn’t pose a threat to public safety, health, the environment or endangered species and their habitat.
· The slurry wall that is being used is “at least as effective as a traditional liner” in containing the ash.