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Wheelabrator will temporarily shut down to fix its noisy steam issue

Residents in Saugus and Revere have been listening to a constant loud noise coming from Wheelabrator as the facility repairs a power-producing turbine. (Spenser R. Hasak)

SAUGUS — Residents who have been listening to the continuous noise coming from Wheelabrator Saugus for 10 days experienced some relief Wednesday afternoon.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection said operations at the trash-to-ash facility would shut down and the plant would remain offline as the company awaits the arrival and installation of an enhanced silencer. 

A steam turbine was taken out of use for repairs a week-and-a-half ago. During the repair process, steam that would normally power the turbine to create energy that is sent back to grid is instead being released directly into the air.

A silencer is being used to mitigate the sound of the escaping steam, but neighbors compared the noise to a plane constantly flying overhead. 

“The plant will shut down this afternoon and the new, enhanced silencer is expected to be on-site tomorrow and will then be installed,” said Edmund Coletta, a spokesman for MassDEP. “It is expected that the installation will be completed by Saturday and the facility will go back online.” 

Once the facility is operating again, MassDEP will monitor the situation and work with the company and local officials to address any other issues that may arise, said Coletta. 

Michelle Nadeau, director of communications and community engagement for Wheelabrator, said in a statement that the enhanced silencer is being shipped to the facility and will be installed as early as Thursday. 

“The facility will remain out of operation until this work is completed,” she said. “Wheelabrator Saugus will continue to accept waste from contract communities. We apologize to our neighbors who were impacted by the venting and were understandably feeling frustration at the noise levels, which our entire team has been working to mitigate.”

State Rep. RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere) said the problem is a reflection of Wheelabrator being the oldest active incinerator in the country. 

“What the people of Revere and Saugus have been experiencing these past 10 days with deafening sound emissions clearly demonstrates that this plant is on life support, and it is time to pull the plug,” said Vincent in a statement. “For residents of Revere and Saugus who have been experiencing this highest degree of noise pollution, it has been absolute torture.”

Vincent chairs Alliance for Health and the Environment, a coalition of environmental organizations and public officials founded in May 2016 to protect public health and the environment.

“It is just simply unconscionable that this has dragged on for 10 days,” she said.

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