Landfill Subcommittee endorses WIN Waste Innovation’s $18.8 million revised offer for 25 more years at ash landfill
WIN Waste Innovations this week offered to pay the town up to $18.8 million – a $3.8 million increase over what it initially proposed – in return for using the ash landfill near its trash-to-energy plant on Route 107 for another 25 years.
The deal is contingent on whether the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) permits the company to expand an ash landfill that is expected to meet its capacity by the end of 2025. Any Host Community Agreement (HCA) deal would also require input and backing from town officials, particularly the Board of Health.
“It won’t even go to the Board of Health if DEP doesn’t approve it,” Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano said Wednesday night (Aug. 24) during a meeting of the Landfill Subcommittee he cochairs with Board of Health Chair William Heffernan.
Subcommittee members voted five to one with two abstentions in support of a motion to accept WIN Waste Innovation’s latest proposal and forward it to the Board of Selectmen.
“A ‘Yes’ vote means we support the proposal,” Cogliano explained to Precinct 10 Town Meeting Member Peter Manoogian at the end of the nearly three-hour long meeting in a packed second floor auditorium at Saugus Town Hall.
Cogliano, Selectman Corinne Riley, former Board of Health Member Joe Vinard, Precinct 10 Town Meeting 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. Heffernan and Health Director John R. Fralick III abstained from the vote.
“I will recuse myself and my position will be unknown,” Heffernan said prior to the vote. Although the Board of Health approved the creation of the subcommittee back in March of 2020 and later approved the appointees, Heffernan insisted “this is not a committee of the Board of Health” and that the subcommittee doesn’t report to the Board of Health. Heffernan maintained that he could not ethically serve as a cochair of a Board of Health subcommittee while serving as the Board of Health’s chair.
It is not clear when members of the Board of Selectmen will review the WIN proposal. The board’s next meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Sept. 6, Oct. 4 and Oct. 18.
Meanwhile, MassDEP representatives are scheduled to meet with town officials and concerned residents at 6 p.m. on Sept. 28 in the second floor auditorium at Town Hall for what is expected to be a discussion on the potential future of the ash landfill. 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 Representative Jeffrey 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.”
At the outset of Wednesday’s meeting, WIN Waste Innovations Vice President of Environment James Connolly presented a revised PowerPoint presentation of the one he made before the Landfill Subcommittee last month. Connolly told the subcommittee that the company had made changes in response to the feedback it received over the past month. WIN Waste now proposes to provide $18.8 million in direct payment – a lump sum payment of $15 million plus $125,000 in 25 annual payments (for total addition value of $3.8 million).
WIN Waste will pay the town $10 million if required to invest more than $5 million due to regulatory requirements, including:
–Approximately $10 million paid at a rate of $2.50 per ton of ash disposed.
–Capital improvements made at the facility would generate additional tax revenue.
The total value of the deal, including investments made by the company in capital improvements and environmental enhancements, is approximately $30 million.
In addition to providing economic benefits, the HCA would reduce NOx and other emissions below the current permit limits, which are already protective of public health and the environment. The company would also install a stand-alone, ambient NOx monitoring station in Saugus and request that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health update its 2016 health study.
“We are grateful for the subcommittee’s hard work and thoughtful deliberations,” Connolly said.
“Our dialogue has been a model of public-private cooperation, and we are confident the final agreement will benefit both the Town and our company,” Connolly said.
The subcommittee’s vote is the first step in a multiyear process that will involve the Saugus Board of Selectmen, the Saugus Board of Health and MassDEP.
Connolly stressed that the company is interested in sharing with the town an economic benefit of continuing to operate the ash landfill on Route 107 in order to avoid trucking the ash from Saugus to Shrewsbury, Mass., or Putnam, Conn.
The subcommittee received testimony from 27 speakers during Wednesday’s meeting – 10 who supported WIN’s plan, 15 who opposed it and two who were neutral. Many of the supporters came from out of town. They expressed their appreciation of the 370-acre Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, which WIN Waste operates on the Route 107 site.
Local artist Kelly Slater of Saugus called herself “a great nature lover” who appreciates WIN Waste’s efforts to maintain the bird sanctuary. “I think it’s wonderful that there’s this fabulous bird sanctuary on the facility,” Slater said.
“However, I don’t think that we have to pay for a bird sanctuary by continuing to accept millions of tons of ash,” she added.
“I’d be happy to pay $350 more in real estate taxes per year if I could see the closure of the landfill,” Slater said.
Longtime Saugonian Eugene Decareau, 92, congratulated the subcommittee for its work in negotiating a potential deal with WIN Waste Innovations. “I thank RESCO, Wheelabrator and WIN… [They] have done one heck of a good job. You’re doing one heck of a good job and I’m with you 100 percent,” he said.
Saugus Fire Capt. Bill Cross, one of the subcommittee members who supports the WIN Waste Innovations proposal, said he would put his trust in the DEP. “If we can’t trust the DEP, who can we trust? … We should put our trust in the DEP and move forward,” Cross said.
Precinct 10 Town Meeting Member Peter Manoogian, a longtime critic of the trash-to-energy plant, praised the subcommittee for doing “some good work.” Manoogian said he would like to see the plant brought up to “the highest of standards,” that they achieve “the lowest emission rates” and close the ash landfill.