Today, the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Environmental Crimes Strike Force announced their decision to fine Wheelabrator $7.5 million to resolve multiple environmental violations. In Massachusetts, Wheelabrator operates municipal waste incineration plants in Saugus, North Andover, and Millbury.
The Saugus River Watershed Council issued the following press statement regarding the environmental violations at Wheelabrator Saugus.
(The following summary is taken directly from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts press statement discussed above.
According to a joint press release issued by the Attorney General, DEP, and the Environmental Crimes Strike Force, Wheelabrator has agreed to pay $7.5 million to resolve allegations that it emitted ash through holes in the roofs of two of its buildings, failed to properly treat and dispose of its ash, repeatedly dumped wastewater into a surrounding wetland, and failed to report a sudden release of hazardous material to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
Wheelabrator Saugus and Wheelabrator North Andover allegedly committed multiple violations of the Hazardous Waste Management Act by failing to properly treat and dispose of ash, and the Clean Water Act by failing to contain fugitive ash. Wheelabrator Millbury and Wheelabrator Saugus allegedly committed violations of the Clean Water Act and the Wetlands Protection Act by releasing ash contaminated water and ash sludge into waterways or wetlands.
The three Wheelabrator facilities, which can process up to 1,500 tons of municipal solid waste per day, all generate ash, which contains contaminants such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic. According to a court complaint filed today by the Attorney General's Office in connection with the settlement, the Wheelabrator facility in Saugus allegedly failed to properly treat ash prior to its disposal. The AG's lawsuit also alleges that there was a hole in the roof of the Ash House at Wheelabrator Saugus, allowing ash to be released into the air. The complaint further alleges that the company used municipal water to clean the Saugus plant and its equipment, held the resulting wastewater in portable storage tanks, and then emptied the tanks into the facility's parking lot and surrounding wetlands. The wetlands are part of the Rumney Marsh, which is a designated area of Critical Environmental Concern.
The AG's complaint alleges that, in September of 2009, a Geotube, a large filter used for removing ash from water broke open at the Saugus facility, allowing 8,000 gallons of ash sludge to spill into the parking lot and adjoining vegetated wetland. Wheelabrator failed to notify MassDEP as required for timely response under state hazardous materials laws. The company then allegedly excavated surrounding wetlands without obtaining approval from the MassDEP or the Saugus Conservation Commission.
In addition to the monetary fine, Wheelbrator must immediately hire an independent environmental auditor to monitor the company's compliance with environmental regulations. The company will be subject to unannounced inspections by the auditor for the next three years.