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Saugus trash plant operator agrees to $7.5M lawsuit settlement

SAUGUS – Wheelabrator Technologies – operator of three Massachusetts municipal waste incinerators including the RESCO plant in Saugus – agreed Monday to pay $7.5 million to resolve allegations it repeatedly contaminated the environment.The settlement was the highest ever paid for a complaint based on environmental violations in Massachusetts, according to state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell.Kimmell said Wheelabrator allegedly “emitted ash through holes in the roofs of two of its buildings, failed to properly treat and dispose of its ash, repeatedly dumped wastewater into a surrounding wetland and failed to report a sudden release of hazardous material” to state environmental officials.The Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force launched an investigation into violations by Wheelabrator in September 2009 after two whistleblowers – a former and a current employee at the Saugus facility – approached the state attorney general’s office with concerns about environmental violations at the Saugus waste-to-energy plant on the Salem Turnpike.Town Meeting member Peter Manoogian, a vociferous critic of Wheelabrator, said Monday the company has been a bad neighbor for 30 years.”The people down there in Precinct 10 have suffered, subsidizing this facility with their lungs and their tissues. Wheelabrator tosses nickels and dimes into charities in Saugus, but those pennies are a piggy bank compared to the environmental damage they have caused. And worse is the fact that they have been in constant denial about it,” Manoogian said. “This incinerator emits toxins, heavy metals and carcinogens into the environment, yet they never admit any wrongdoing. It’s the poor people in East Saugus, West Lynn, Nahant and the Point of Pines in Revere who are breathing this crap day and night.”Manoogian noted public health standards were drafted long after the incinerator went into operation. “For years this plant was in operation without scrubbers or liners on its ash landfill,” he said. “We have had decades of bio-accumulation in people’s lungs.” He advocated increased inspections by the local Board of Health.”Corporate responsibility is paramount if we want to preserve our communities and maintain the beauty and safety of our commonwealth,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a statement. “We’re grateful to those who initially raised concerns with us about Wheelabrator and are pleased that Wheelabrator has taken the steps needed to set its three facilities on a safe path for the future.”Coakley said the settlement ensures continuing environmental oversight of these facilities as well as a return of dollars to both state and local budgets and help for the affected communities.”I’m glad the issue has been settled and the details clarified. RESCO has taken action to correct these deficiencies and hopefully it will never happen again,” said Town Manager Andrew Bisignani. “Saugus will share in some of the revenue from the fines, but we don’t know what that amount will be.”Coakley’s office in a statement released Monday noted Wheelabrator Saugus and Wheelabrator North Andover allegedly committed multiple violations of the Hazardous Waste Management Act by failing to properly treat and dispose of ash and the Clean Water Act by failing to contain fugitive ash. Wheelabrator Millbury and Wheelabrator Saugus allegedly committed violations of the Clean Water Act and the Wetlands Protection Act by releasing ash contaminated water and ash sludge into waterways or wetlands.Kimmell slammed Wheelabrator for the multiple violations. “Municipal waste collection is an important public service, but waste incineration triggers many important environmental regulations and strict compliance with those regulations is required in order to ensure that the public health is protected,” he said. “Wheelabrator fell far short of meeting some of the most basic requirements and the settlement today, which is the highest ever for a state

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