Local Government and Politics, News

Wheelabrator subcommittee to hold first meeting

SAUGUS — A new Wheelabrator subcommittee formed by Saugus’ Board of Health will hold its first meeting Wednesday to discuss resident concerns regarding the incinerator’s impact on nearby communities. 

Health director John Fralick said the 11-member panel’s primary aim is to create a more transparent line of communication between the plant, town officials, and Saugus residents. 

“We wanted to get some meetings on the book to talk about the future of Wheelabrator and what some of the longstanding issues have been,” said Fralick, who will oversee the meetings. “I think it’ll be good for the town to just talk about what’s going on.”

Following several months of discussion, the board voted 3-0 earlier this month to approve the committee, which includes Board of Health members William Heffernan and Shawn Ayube, former members Dianne Serino and Joe Vinard, Selectman Anthony Cogliano and Selectwoman Corinne Riley, Town Manager Scott Crabtree, resident Christopher Williams, Town Meeting member and Saugus Fire Lieutenant Bill Cross, Town Meeting member Peter Delios, and environmental advocate Jackie Mercurio, who is a member of both Saugus Action Volunteers for the Environment and the Alliance for Health and Environment. 

Referring to a string of incidents in recent years — including one this past August in which the facility was fined by the Health Department after a damaged dichotomizer line ruptured and caused a pillar of smoke to be released into surrounding neighborhoods — Fralick said he hopes more frequent communication will help keep residents informed. 

“The summer before last, there was also an issue where there was prolonged noise coming from the facility, and that really worked everybody up into a frenzy regarding what actions the town was taking (to address the concerns),” Fralick said. “This is one of the first steps towards being able to regulate a little more accurately in terms of what is coming out of that facility.”

The subcommittee is one of several recent efforts to improve the relationship between residents and Wheelabrator, which Fralick noted is also in the process of completing an acoustic study conducted by Wood Engineering to assess its level of noise pollution. 

In the wake of the August incident, Board of Health chair William Heffernan requested that a representative from Wheelabrator be present at every Board of Health meeting — a request both the plant and Fralick say has been readily honored. 

“We welcome the creation of the committee and look forward to the discussion about how Wheelabrator Saugus can best continue to provide economic and environmental value to Saugus and the region,” said Wheelabrator Vice president of Environmental Compliance James Connolly. “We appreciate town leaders for creating this opportunity for cooperative and productive dialogue.”

 

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