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Saugus vote not to vote a WIN

This article was published 7 months ago.

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

SAUGUS — Town Meeting members on Monday night voted to indefinitely postpone a vote on a resolution authored by four members from Precinct 10 that would have sent a letter to the town’s legislative delegation opposing any expansion of WIN Waste Innovations’ ash monofil, which has been the subject of intense debate as the company and the town have forged a Host Community Agreement.

The motion passed by a narrow margin, with 21 members voting yes to postpone the article, 15 members voting no, and 13 members not voting at all. In a statement, WIN Waste Innovations Vice President Environmental Jim Connolly said the decision by Town Meeting to postpone the article served as a show of support for the agreement, which would “provide significant environmental and economic benefits to the town for years to come.”

“A proposed Host Community Agreement between Saugus and WIN Waste Innovations would formalize these benefits if we are able to obtain the necessary permits to continue operating the monofil,” Connolly said. “We look forward to working with the town to finalize the HCA, engaging in a rigorous, transparent, and fact-based environmental review process, and making our case to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Saugus Board of Health.”

Precinct 8 Town Meeting member Billy Cross made the motion, and Precinct 6 member Bill Brown said he viewed it as a way for “no one to lose anything.”

“We will still have a voice in this,” Brown said. He would go on to make a motion to call the question, effectively ending debate on Cross’s motion and forcing a vote. Brown’s motion passed with 25 yes votes compared to 12 no votes and 12 absents.

The article, submitted by Peter Manoogian, Carla Scuzzarella, Martin Costello, and Darren Ring, called for Town Meeting to “convey our opposition to any further expansion of the WIN ash landfill located on Route 107 and urge our state delegation to oppose any effort to modify the law or regulations relative to the Areas of Critical Environmental Concern.” Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection have repeatedly said that WIN, which is seeking to expand its landfill beyond the 50 foot vertical cap set by Town Meeting, cannot expand under current law as it is located in the Rumney Marsh, a state-designated ACEC.

Under the terms of the Host Community Agreement, which the Board of Selectmen approved by a narrow vote last month, Saugus would be exempt from paying tipping fees for two decades in exchange for the company being allowed to continue to operate the landfill. As part of the agreement, WIN would also reduce the NOx emissions coming from the plant. If the company is not allowed to dump ash in the Saugus fill, it will be trucked to Shrewsbury and Putnam, Conn. on tractor-trailers.

During the Special Town Meeting Monday, members heard primarily from opponents of the expansion, with Manoogian, Scuzzarella, Costello, and Ring each giving detailed presentations about the perceived health risks of the waste-to-energy plant operated by the company as well as its ash landfill. Members also heard from Scott Hersey, an associate professor at Olin College, who gave a presentation on his findings from an air quality study done at Gibson Park in Revere, which sits across the marsh from WIN’s facility.

Hersey said that his research found a higher concentration of pollutants in the air coming from the direction of the WIN facility than from other directions, but he conceded that pollution from Route 1A could be playing a role in that data.

Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano, who was a driving force behind the Host Community Agreement and served as a co-chair of the landfill sub committee, said Hersey’s presentation backed his argument that the emissions from the waste-to-energy plant should be the chief concern for town residents, not the monofil itself.

“Everything he just talked about was not from the landfill, it’s not from ash coming up from the ground. It’s from the emissions and our plan lowers the emissions. It makes things safer for people from Precinct 10,” Cogliano said. “The committee worked for two years to present something to the town. The Board of Selectmen approved it and because someone didn’t like it, we’re back here tonight trying to send a letter to the DEP that the town doesn’t agree with what we came up with. It’s just not true. The things we put forth work and benefit the entire town.”

Cogliano expressed firm opposition to the idea of the town continuing to pay tipping fees while ash is trucked from the WIN facility to other towns.

“To watch us pay to haul ash away is crazy. If that slurry wall is intact, who cares if they go up 20 feet, no one is ever going to notice a foot a year for the next 20 years. But we will notice the savings every year … money that can be used toward the fire station or used to fix our streets or used to go to the schools or used for the playgrounds,” he said. “This is absolute insanity to believe that this is the right way to go.”

Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Debra Panetta, who has been a vocal opponent of the expansion, said four Town Meeting members putting forward a resolution like Manoogian, Scuzzarella, Costello, and Ring did is a “huge big deal.”

“This is four Town Meeting members coming to you and they’re pleading with you ‘please this is important to us,’” she said. “This particular matter is something that I’ve been following for over three decades and it’s very important to me, it’s very important to the residents of Saugus because … the health and well being of all of our residents are the most important thing and we were all elected to do the very best we can for our residents.”

Discussion of the article lasted for the better part of two hours on Monday night, and Manoogian, in an interview after the meeting, said he was disappointed by the result but he will continue his fight opposing the expansion.

“Obviously, we would’ve loved to send the message that this is not appropriate for Saugus. But certainly a no vote would have been far worse. Obviously some members felt uncomfortable taking a stand either way, and I can respect that decision. But I thought we did our best representing the people that elected us,” he said.

Charlie McKenna can be reached at

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