~ Letter to the Editor ~
By voting in favor of local by-law changes at a Special Town Meeting on February 6th, Saugus Town Meeting members have taken an important step toward protecting critical environmental resources in the Town of Saugus. Thanks to their proactive leadership, the Rumney Marshes Area of Critical Environmental Concern will now be protected from new or expanded landfills or ash landfills in the region. At the same time, a new zoning limit will prevent landfills or ash landfills in Saugus from expanding beyond a 50-foot height limitation.
Though not targeted to any particular facility, the approved by-law changes will have an impact on the Wheelabrator Saugus ash landfill. For one thing, Wheelabrator now has clear direction from Saugus that the community will not support or permit an ash landfill that expands beyond the currently permitted 50-foot height limit. Instead of pouring an unending stream of funds into public relations and making threats to sue the town, it is our sincere hope that Wheelabrator will shift their focus from expansion of this site to engaging in a dialogue with the Town of Saugus and with state environmental officials to implement the final closure plan and associated environmental protections for this vulnerable site.
With its location along the Saugus / Pines River estuary and reliance on clay and groundwater flows instead of the protective liners in place at every other ash landfill in the state, the risks to the community and region associated with this site will unfortunately not end with closure. Anticipated sea level rise combined with increasing intensity and frequency of coastal storms mean that this coastal landfill is at risk for potential erosion into the future. Any leaching from this ash landfill is of particular concern because it contains fly ash laden with dangerous contaminants such as lead and mercury. Yes, this is the same ash that required a hazardous waste cleanup company to come in when it was accidently spilled on land near the Wheelabrator buildings twice in 2016.
While it is important to see the community of Saugus come together in support of environmental protection for the future, it is equally important for Wheelabrator to live up to its promise of being a ‘good neighbor’ by moving forward with closure plans that are already more than 20 years overdue and working with state environmental officials to ensure that the final closure plan for the ash landfill incorporates mitigation measures that will protect our wetlands, waterways and community into the future.
The Saugus River Watershed Council is a non-profit organization founded in 1991 to protect and restore the natural resources of the watershed. The groups is also a founding member of the Alliance for Health and Environment.
Saugus River Watershed Council