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Saugus Selectmen approve WIN host agreement

This article was published 8 months ago.

WIN Waste Innovations' facility on the Salem Turnpike in Saugus. (Item file photo)

SAUGUS — By a narrow vote of 3-2, the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday approved a drastically amended version of the town’s Community Host Agreement with WIN Waste Innovations that would shorten the agreement’s length from 25 to 20 years and require Saugus be exempt from tipping fees each year it is in effect.

After 20 months of discussion and deliberation, the town’s WIN Waste Innovations subcommittee approved the company’s proposed Host Community Agreement in August, which prior to the Board of Selectmen’s amendment, would have provided the town $18.8 million in direct payments if the company is able to obtain the necessary permits to continue operating its ash-only landfill for 25 years.

The August agreement included a caveat that if the waste management company is forced to spend more than $5 million due to regulatory requirements, the lump sum payment would drop to $10 million. The Board of Selectmen’s amended agreement does not include that caveat, drops the $15 million lump sum payment to $1 million, and adds the town exemption from tipping fees.

Tipping fees are paid on a per-ton basis for disposing of waste at the waste-to-energy facility. In each of the last two fiscal years, the Town budgeted $850,000 for waste disposal. According to the Town budget, Saugus spent $625,424 on waste disposal in FY2019, $674,723 in FY2020, and $742,886 in FY2021. Over the course of a 20-year agreement, the Town would save at least $17 million in tipping fees and likely significantly more, due to the cost increasing over time.

Before the agreement can take effect, WIN will need to acquire necessary permits from the Board of Health and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to continue operating the monofill, which is on track to exceed the capacity it is currently permitted for. WIN Environmental, Health and Safety Vice President Jim Connolly said the permitting process could take up to three years in total.

“As with any agreement of this kind, there are details of the Host Community Agreement to finalize and we look forward to doing so in the coming days and weeks,” Connolly said in a statement. “We thank the Board of Selectmen for facilitating a substantive, comprehensive and transparent discussion and for creating a framework for a mutually beneficial public-private partnership between Saugus and WIN Waste for years to come.”

Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano said the board’s approval is one step in a long process.

“It’s a simple fact that the waste-to-energy facility will continue to operate for many years. Our options are so simple. We can continue wasting money losing lawsuits or we can continue the positive dialogue we have started with WIN Waste to get the best deal possible for the town while ensuring the health and safety of our residents,” Cogliano said. “There’s a long way to go here. All the cost and all the burden is on WIN to prove they can dump more ash here and not cause harm to the environment.”

Environmental benefits to Saugus laid out in August remain unchanged in the newly amended agreement. They include WIN reducing NOx and other emissions below current permit limits, conducting optimization testing to determine levels of additional NOx reductions, and installing a stand-alone ambient NOx monitoring station in Saugus.

At the meeting Tuesday, Connolly said WIN will request the state Department of Public Health update its 2016 study of the plant’s impact on community health. WIN will also provide $26,000 per year to fund an independent third-party consultant to inspect the waste-to-energy facility and monofill.

At the start of the Tuesday meeting, Cogliano and Board of Selectmen member Corinne Riley appeared to be in favor of moving forward with the Host Community Agreement, while Michael Serino and Vice Chair Debra Panetta did not.

Board of Selectmen member Jeffrey Cicolini said early on during the meeting that he would not support the Community Host Agreement the WIN Waste Innovations subcommittee brought to the board. Instead, he motioned to drastically amend the agreement, which the board narrowly passed.

A fraught discussion preceded the split vote, in which Panetta and Serino voted no. Riley, Cogliano, and Cicolini voted yes.

Panetta was one of the agreement’s most vocal opponents and voiced concern about the height of the ash monofill over time. She said she didn’t feel the board had enough information to vote on the agreement Tuesday.

“Do we want the potentially highest structure in Saugus to be an ash landfill?” Panetta asked during the meeting. “Wouldn’t the height of this landfill be an important thing for us to know before taking a vote?”

During public comment, in which the majority of speakers were in favor of the proposal, Town Meeting member Martin Costello said he was worried about the impact climate change could potentially have on the monofill, particularly if a hurricane were to hit Saugus and take some of the ash seaward. He said he would like to see a committee formed to close the WIN facility.

Longtime Revere City Councilor Tony Zambuto also spoke during public comment. He said he supported Saugus’s partnership with WIN and emphasized that the ash is non-toxic, according to standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Town Meeting member Bill Brown said based on his 73 years living in Saugus, he also supports the proposal.

“WIN has proven themselves to be good neighbors. They work hard and they’re trying to clean up their act,” Brown said. “It’s time the town of Saugus take a different path on this. The past 40 years, we’ve had an adversarial relationship. I think right now there’s an open door to do something different.”

State Rep. Jessica Giannino (D-Revere) attended the meeting and submitted a letter to the board expressing concerns about the company’s operations. State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) previously expressed support for the town’s partnership with WIN but made no public comment at the meeting Tuesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Board of Selectmen had received 35 letters in support of the agreement and just one opposing it. The board also received seven letters in favor of preserving Bear Creek Sanctuary. WIN developed and maintains the 370-acre wildlife habitat adjacent to the company’s waste-to-energy facility. Connolly said in August that the sanctuary’s future would be uncertain if the company was forced to shut down the monofill.

Officials noted during the meeting that representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection will answer questions from residents at 6 p.m. on Sept. 28 at Town Hall.

Rachel Barber can be reached at

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