Saugus environmental group chastises RESCO

SAUGUS – A Saugus River environmental group Tuesday described Wheelabrator Technologies as “appalling” for allegedly polluting Rumney Marsh and the surrounding watershed with toxic ash, as detailed in a $7.5 million settlement reached earlier this week between the company and state enforcement officials.”Wheelabrator’s blatant violations of the Clean Water Act and the Wetlands Protection Act at the Saugus waste incineration plant are appalling, and fly in the face of ongoing efforts to protect and restore natural resources in the region,” said Joan LeBlanc, executive director of the Saugus River Watershed Council (SRWC).Because the Wheelabrator waste incineration facility in Saugus is located adjacent to the Rumney Marsh Area of Critical Environmental Concern and the Saugus River and Lynn Harbor estuary, any pollution at the site has a direct impact on the Saugus River watershed, LeBlanc said.Although Wheelabrator admits no wrongdoing in the settlement, the company must pay the fines based on allegations it emitted ash through holes in the roof of its buildings, failed to treat disposed ash, repeatedly dumped wastewater into a surrounding wetland, and failed to report a sudden release of hazardous materials to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).The DEP, state attorney general’s office, and the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force began investigating the incidents in 2009 after a former and current employee came forward with information about violations.”When you consider that the three surrounding communities of Saugus, Lynn, and Revere are all spending millions of dollars to upgrade their sewer and storm drainage infrastructure to improve water quality, the violations at Wheelabrator Saugus are even more upsetting,” said LeBlanc, who applauded state environmental officials for pursuing the case.The $7.5 million settlement was the largest of its kind in Massachusetts for environmental violations.LeBlanc noted the Rumney Marsh is an ecologically sensitive 2,634-acre urban salt marsh system extending into Saugus, Lynn, Revere, Boston and Winthrop.This region was designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern in 1988 to preserve its value as one of the most biologically significant salt marshes north of Boston. The marsh contains flounder, alewife, rainbow smelt, American eel, soft shelled and razor clams mussels, and a variety of native and migratory birds.Cindy Luppi, New England co-director of the environmental and public health advocacy group Clean Water Action, said waste incinerators are among the largest industrial polluters in the region. “We applaud the courage of the whistleblowers at these facilities for the role they played in bringing these violations to light as well,” she said. “The biggest lesson we can learn from these allegations is that, despite government attempts to minimize the impact on the communities that host and abut waste incinerators, heavy burdens that directly threaten our health and ecosystems remain.”Luppi said Clean Water Action urges renewed commitment to expanded recycling and waste reduction, and to making producers of consumer goods responsible for disposal “so the public can move away from heavy reliance on waste incineration and landfilling.”The RESCO plant on the Salem Turnpike converts waste into energy by producing steam, which is used to turn turbines and create electricity. It is surrounded by an ash landfill.The settlement also included violations at Wheelabrator facilities in North Andover and Millbury.Wheelabrator issued its own statement Monday evening in response to the settlement announcement.It read, in part, “Wheelabrator has worked cooperatively with the MA Attorney General’s office and MassDEP during their assessment of our operations in Massachusetts. We have maintained the highest commitment to environmental compliance in Massachusetts over three decades and we do not concur with the Commonwealth’s assessment. We have settled this matter to

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