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    THE ARGUMENT

    Should the state approve Wheelabrator’s request to deposit more ash at its Saugus landfill?

    YES

    Stephanie Mastrocola

    Saugus resident and parent

    Stephanie Mastrocola

    For the past 40 years, Wheelabrator Saugus has been an integral part of the region’s environmental infrastructure, an important economic partner to surrounding communities, and a good corporate citizen.

    The energy-from-waste facility safely manages non-recyclable solid waste generated by households and businesses in the region. In the process, it reduces the need for landfilling while generating enough clean, renewable energy to power 38,000 homes.

    But more than that, Wheelabrator Saugus has been a generous, responsible, and successful steward of the local environment, investing $17 million in the Rumney Marshes, a state-designated Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and managing the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary. Thanks in part to the efforts of Wheelabrator, the 370-acre wildlife refuge is now an environmental gem and home to 17,000 trees, 200 bird species, 10 beehives, and nine ecosystems.

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    Wheelabrator is also an important economic partner to Saugus and surrounding communities, generating $28 million in economic stimulus and nearly 100 jobs for local residents. The largest taxpayer in the town of Saugus, Wheelabrator also contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to community programs and causes.

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    Of course, local citizens and elected officials have every right to ask hard questions about any business or industry in their midst.

    But they can rest easy in the knowledge that energy-from-waste facilities are among the most stringently regulated industries in the world – and that the Wheelabrator Saugus facility has met or exceeded local, state, and federal environmental standards throughout its operation.

    Wheelabrator now seeks to continue using the on-site monofill that contains the safe ash generated by the energy-from-waste process. The application simply seeks to add capacity within two of the five internal valleys of the monofill in a configuration that is consistent with that of the three other approved valleys. It would not increase the monofill’s height, footprint, or lateral measurement.

    North Shore residents can rest easy in the knowledge that Wheelabrator’s application has been thoroughly scrutinized – and provisionally approved -- by the state Department of Environmental Protection after a rigorous and transparent process that collected input from hundreds of local residents.

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    Any objective review of the facts and Wheelabrator’s history will conclude that the facility’s continued existence is an environmental and economic win for Saugus and the entire region.

    NO

    RoseLee Vincent

    State Representative, Revere Democrat, vice chair of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, and House chair of the Metropolitan Beaches Commission

    RoseLee Vincent

    No, the Commonwealth should not allow Wheelabrator to deposit an additional 500,000 tons of contaminated ash in the unlined ash landfill in Saugus.

    This is possibly the most dangerous landfill in the state, posing significant risks to public health and the environment because it lacks the modern protections required by law; is located in a sensitive wetland; and it is less than 2 miles from the homes of over 50,000 people in Saugus, Revere, and Lynn, many of whom live in state-designated Environmental Justice neighborhoods.

    The landfill is the only ash or municipal solid waste landfill in Massachusetts that accepts waste into an unlined landfill cell; current law requires a double, plastic liner system. The landfill was ordered closed by the state Department of Environmental Protection by December 1996, but over the last two decades, the agency has allowed Wheelabrator to remain open despite the obvious danger to the community.

    No amount of engineering or planning could justify expanding the landfill, which is located within the Rumney Marshes Area of Critical Environmental Concern and adjacent to the Pines and Saugus rivers, which empty into America’s first public beach in Revere.

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    Rising seas and increasingly intense coastal storms increase the urgency to safeguard our communities by closing and securing this coastal landfill. Adding more contaminated ash to this vulnerable site goes against state efforts to mitigate negative impacts of climate change and protect coastal infrastructure, natural resources, and neighborhoods.

    Finally, what goes into the landfill is even more concerning. Fly ash, which contains high levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and other pollutants, is mixed with bottom ash, and is then dumped at the landfill every day. Since 1974, these contaminants have been migrating through the air, water, and soil, negatively impacting the health of the residents.

    When is enough, enough?

    (This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.)

    As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.