Opinion

Protecting Saugus’ fragile environment

Residents of Saugus, surrounding communities, and travelers of Route 1 — The Saugus Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) will ultimately decide on whether or not to allow a five-story, 300-unit, 40B apartment complex to move forward. 

We are nearing the end of the process as we’ve been told there are only two more meetings before the ZBA makes their decision. This decision will affect all residents of Saugus and anyone who travels along congested Route 1.

There are insurmountable reasons against this project and the board should not permit it. If it does proceed, the fragile species, fauna and land of Massachusetts Priority Habitat 1550 will forever be changed. So many news reports predict ecological Armageddon and environmental catastrophes that lie ahead. Let’s do our part by not adding to the damage that has already been done and protect this land.

Priority Habitat 1550 is not only home to a variety of endangered species and flora fauna, it is home to so many other species, not necessarily on the “endangered” list. Who is to say these species are not worthy of protection? Just the other day, a mother painted turtle was discovered laying her eggs at Stackpole Field. Although that particular turtle was not endangered, the neighboring Eastern Box turtle is; and the hills beside Prankers Pond are its home. 

The Eastern Box turtle, along with other endangered species, have been spotted among the many acres of Prankers Pond. They too will lose their habitat.

Not only do the thousands of trees of PH 1550 provide a natural sound barrier to noisy Route 1, they are home to carnivorous birds. These owls, hawks, eagles, and turkey vultures love to eat rodents.

It is no secret that rats live in the dumpsters along Route 1. These predatory birds also control the rodent population. No trees, no birds, just rodents. Melrose, Malden, and sections of Saugus that have removed forest land or have undergone construction, such as Steven’s Pond, the Waybright School, and Highland Avenue near Saugus High School, have complained of an infestation of rats.

This adds to the already long list of concerns the residents of Saugus have concerning this proposed development.

The latest Massachusetts Water Resources Authority report for Saugus states lead levels in our drinking water have steadily risen since 2014. Radium, the solid form of cancer causing Radon, was measured to be almost 2 percent (1.76) as of a 2014 study. The highest acceptable unit of Radium is 5. This data was collected before any blasting occurred prior to the almost 2,000 units built along Route 1. 

Radon, otherwise known as a “silent killer,” will surely rise with any blasting of ledge. Which brings us to the concern of the sleeping beast, the aging Tennessee Pipeline running alongside the property.

The Conservation Commission is responsible for protecting the land, water, animals, and biological resources and natural communities. So many species are dependent upon the wetland resources in this balanced ecosystem. The Conservation Commission must uphold the

Federal Wetlands Protection Act Regulations in order to continue to preserve this area. 

Sadly, Priority Habitat 1550 will be eliminated if the 40B Saugus Ridge development is approved. The developer will present a “Notice of Intent” to the Saugus Conservation Commission. Here, they will ask permission to ignore Federal law by destroying this habitat and developing the land. The

Conservation Commission has it within its power to reject this request.

In recent weeks specifically, Saugus Town Meeting has shown its care and concern for the environment, when they adopted a new bylaw banning the distribution of single use plastic bags. 

We must ensure that the Saugus Conservation Commission also moves to protect the environment by holding them accountable, rejecting this “Notice of Intent” based on protections and laws put in place for exactly this reason. Please write to the members of the Saugus Conservation Commission and help save the future of Prankers Pond.

Let your voice be heard at the final Zoning Board of Appeals meeting at the Saugus Public Library on July 25.

Becky Connolly and Caroline Knowles

Saugus/Friends of Prankers Pond

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