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Saugus residents: Neighborhood more polluted since RESCO arrived

SAUGUS – When Louis Ciampa Jr. was a boy, he could walk to the end of Bristow Street and look across the marsh to Revere Beach.”Can’t do that anymore. There’s a mountain of ash in the way,” said Ciampa, who moved to Bristow Street long before the Wheelabrator Technologies trash incinerator was built in 1975 on the nearby Salem Turnpike. “They’re still burning and they’re still dumping ash. There’s always a fine soot on everything.”Ciampa is among several residents of Precinct 10, which abuts Rumney Marsh and is closest to the RESCO plant, to share his experiences two days after Wheelabrator Technologies reached a $7.5 million settlement stemming from allegations of environmental pollution.The settlement notes the company dumped contaminated ash into the marsh, allowed fly ash to escape into the atmosphere and committed other environmental violations. Wheelabrator Technologies has denied any wrongdoing but agreed to pay the fines, the largest ever imposed in Massachusetts for environmental violations.”In summer I have a boat on the Pines River. Soot gets all over. It’s like if you took a pepper shaker and put it on white paint,” said Ciampa, adding he hopes a bulk of the fine money will return to Saugus. “We’re the ones who put up with the bad air and the soot. Unfortunately, they have been over 30 years so it’s hard to tell when they’re burning. And the landfill, it’s so high it’s like a skyscraper.”Ciampa said many anglers still fish from the bridges along the Salem Turnpike or in the Pines River. “They’re after the striped bass. It’s scary,” he said.Not everyone living on Bristow Street was aware of the towering smokestack or what goes on at the plant, where trash from Greater Boston is burned and converted to steam, which is used to turn electricity-producing turbines.RESCO (Refuse Energy Systems Co.) is the nation’s first waste-to-energy plant. It is surrounded by an unlined landfill in which contaminated ash is dumped. Much of the landfill has been covered with soil and seeded.”I have lived here 12 years and never noticed any bad smells,” said Raquel Segee of Bristow Street. “I don’t really notice the smokestack. It’s just kind of there.”Three Saugus students – Jenna and Gia Ferraro and Alex Cole – were uninformed about the plant. “I know they bring the trash there and it creates air pollution,” said Cole, who attends Belmonte Middle School. “They taught us about that in school.”The Ferraros admittedly were unclear about the plant operation so close to their homes. “I know the trash goes into a landfill,” said Jenna Ferraro, vowing to learn more about environmental issues when she returns to class.Gloria Richmond, a Bristow Street resident for 50 years, said her husband, George, died at age 53. “He was young. I don’t know if the reason he died was related in any way to pollution,” she said. “In recent years I haven’t gotten out so much, so I don’t smell anything. But at night I can hear them working at the plant.”Linda Barressi, another neighbor and Bristow Street resident for 43 years, recalled ash particles in the air many years ago, shortly after the plant opened. “There would be black soot on our house and the swimming pool, but then it stopped,” she said. “I heard about the big fine. If there’s a problem down there, they should nip it in the bud. If people are dying of cancer in this area, something has to be done.”Inta Baggs, who moved to Bristow Street 25 years ago, said her automobiles are occasionally flecked with black particles. “I find them in the morning,” she said.Her son, Bobby Baggs Jr., has also found particles. “When I go to wash the car, that’s when I notice them,” he said.The neighborhood was once dominated by residents of Italian decent, according to Segee. “It’s not anymore. All different people live here now,” she said. “A lot of the older ones have died.”Town Manager Andrew Bisignani said the settlement does not specify how much Saugus will receive. The settlement was forged between Wheelabrator Te

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