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Ash Landfill Life Extended

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WIN Waste begins trucking ash from Saugus plant in an effort to delay the closure of its ash landfill while the company finds a way to keep the landfill open many more years


By Mark E. Vogler


SAUGUS – WIN Waste Innovations this week began trucking ash to a company disposal site in Shrewsbury in an effort to prolong the life of the ash landfill near its trash-to-energy plant on Route 107. Elliott Casey, manager of WIN’s Saugus plant, briefed the Board of Health at Monday’s (April 1) meeting on some of the logistics involved in transporting the ash, including the use of six trucks a day leaving the plant, traveling from Route 107 to Route 1 Monday through Friday. Casey told the Board of Health that the trucks would transport about 4,500 tons of ash offsite per month, adding life to a landfill that one company official said last year was expected to reach its capacity by the end of 2025.

“While it is our strong preference to continue to safely dispose of the ash at our monofil next to the facility, shipping of ash is allowed under our operating permits, and we notified the DEP and copied the Board of Health in advance,” Casey told the board.

Mary Urban, WIN’s Senior Director of Communications & Community, issued a statement to The Saugus Advocate elaborating on the company’s decision to begin shipping ash to Shrewsbury. “We strongly believe the best financial and environmental option for the town, the state and our company is to continue to manage the ash onsite, as we have done safely and successfully for decades,” Urban said. “We are hoping the shipping of ash is temporary as we continue to work with the Town on a signed Host Community Agreement. The focus of our long-term plan is to continue to work with the Town on a mutual path forward where Saugus receives around $20 million over the next 20 years and we continue to safely dispose of the ash next door instead of shipping the ash, among other benefits.”


Hurdles WIN needs to overcome

WIN’s decision to begin shipping ash off-site comes nearly a year after the Board of Selectmen voted 3-2 (on April 4, 2023) in support of a Host Community Agreement (HCA) with WIN Waste Innovations that won’t take effect unless the state allows the company to expand its ash landfill.

“Putting a Host Community Agreement in place is an insurance policy against the MassDEP, not the Town of Saugus, finding ways to add to the ash pile,” Selectman Corinne Riley told her colleagues, in explaining her reason to back the HCA.

“Mass DEP has extended the ash pile many times over many years, and Saugus has nothing to show for it but more ash,” she said.

Selectman Jeffrey Cicolini doesn’t support expansion of the ash landfill, but cast what many Town Hall observers consider the tie-breaking vote. “If they do their job, we don’t have a Host Community Agreement,” Cicolini said, referring to state environmental officials who have said expansion of the landfill isn’t possible under existing state law and regulations.

“We’re voting on an insurance policy,” Cicolini said, agreeing with Riley’s evaluation that if the state relaxes the regulations that would allow expansion of the landfill, the town would receive millions of dollars in financial benefits that it wouldn’t otherwise receive.

If WIN is allowed to continue using the monofil beyond its current capacity, the company is prepared to move forward with the permitting process upon the HCA being signed.

Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree – not selectmen – would be involved in any negotiations with WIN on an HCA. Crabtree would not comment on WIN’s pursuit of expanding the ash landfill.


A proposal for Ash Landfill Closure Committee

During the time that Crabtree has been town manager, an overwhelming majority of residents who have served on the Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting have publicly opposed any further expansion of the ash landfill.

Meanwhile, Precinct 10 Town Meeting Member Peter Manoogian, a longtime critic of WIN Waste, stressed that WIN’s desire to expand its unlined ash landfill just an inch above the permitted 50-foot height is not allowed under Massachusetts law. “DEP has clearly and repeatedly stated that the site is ‘not suitable’ for expansion. They have acknowledged to the Board of Health that this environmental abomination is now on life support,” Manoogian told The Saugus Advocate.

“That is why I will be filing an article in the Annual Town Meeting to start an Ash Landfill Closure Committee much like was done with the Aggregate Quarry,” Manoogian said.

“Undoubtedly WIN will step up their political activity to convince Saugus to accept something that neither exists nor would be allowed anyplace else in Massachusetts or the United States. WIN should concentrate on bringing their current facility into compliance with NOx levels without having to buy emission credits,” he said.

WIN does have some support – though a minority – among Town Meeting members.

Precinct 6 Town Meeting Member Bill Brown this week noted that a third fire station to serve the west side of town and funding Saugus’ share of the new Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational School while maintaining fiscal stability are top priorities for this year’s Annual Town Meeting, which convenes on May 6. “Our challenge will be how we finance these projects,” Brown told The Saugus Advocate.

“It is time that the Town of Saugus negotiates a host community agreement with WIN Waste Innovations (Wheelabrator). A Host Community Agreement would reduce trash fees for the town by one million or more a year, freeing up cash to help cover the cost of these projects,” he said.

But Board of Selectmen Chair Debra Panetta – who along with Selectman Michael Serino voted against the HCA a year ago – questioned why the board spent so much time over the course of a year on a matter where it lacked the jurisdiction. Panetta also cited the Nov. 16, 2021, letter written by the former Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, Martin Suuberg, to State Rep. Jeffrey Turco, which stated that the agency would not support expansion of the ash landfill. Suuberg noted in his letter that “the facility fails to meet the necessary site suitability criteria to allow for expansion within the Area of Critical Environmental Concern 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,” Suuberg wrote.

Panetta also cited a Sept. 28, 2022, forum organized by State Representatives Jessica Giannino and Turco at Saugus Town Hall, which invited MassDEP officials to attend and field questions from the public. “At that time, the representatives from the MassDEP made it clear that there could be no expansion of the landfill under current regulations,” Panetta said. “Nothing has changed since then. I have said at several meetings over the years that I strongly believe that a landfill closure committee should be established.”

If that occurs, trucking ash to Shrewsbury could see the truck traffic carrying the ash double the amount of daily trips from the plant on Route 107 in Saugus to get rid of about 9,000 tons of ash each month.

At the moment, Director of Public Health John R. Fralick III is concerned about just half of that tonnage of ash and the environmental impact of trucks hauling it from the plant on Route 107. “It might be prudent to look at what the environmental impact would be,” Fralick told the Board of Health at Monday’s meeting.

“There are some questions that need to be answered,” he said. Casey said he would be glad to provide the board with whatever information it needs.

WIN this week fulfilled one request by providing the board with a copy of the MassDEP permit authorizing the company to ship ash.

The Board of Health’s next meeting is on May 6, the same night that Town Meeting convenes.

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