No More Trucks Going to MWRA Facility

WINTHROP – There will be no new trucks coming through Winthrop as part of a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority pilot program on using co-digestion to produce electricity at the Deer Island Treatment Facility. Instead, the MWRA will barge its food waste needed in the co-digestion process from Charlestown to a new 250-foot pier on the island and pump it where needed.

Last Wednesday night MWRA Executive Director Fred Laskey and others involved in the project assured residents that there will be no new trucks carrying the slurry of food waste needed for its new program. The 40 or so residents at the meeting were told the MWRA is evaluating a twice a week barge delivery to a new pier.

David Duest, director of the Deer Island facility, said Waste Management, which has the contract, will spend $2.5 million for the barging operation. Another $20,000 will be spent by the MWRA to repair existing pier pilings. Pre-processing of the food waste/slurry material will be handled by Waste Management at no cost to the MWRA. Other improvements the MWRA plans is the construction of a pipeline to pump the slurry off the barge and to the digester. If the pilot program goes as planned the MWRA will have to build two storage tanks. Laskey added that the Coast Guard has review the project and did not consider it a hazard.

The process of co-digestion involves food waste from various institutions being ground up to create a liquid slurry. Digesters on the island would break down the waste which produces methane gas and can create electricity for the wind turbines and part of the island. Duest said the material breaks down quickly and does not create an odor. Leftover materials are turned into fertilizer pellets that the MWRA sells. He added that there will be no storage of methane gas on the island, something residents had concerns about.

Peg Riley, a former MWRA board member and resident of Winthrop, asked about environmental impact statements. Laskey said they have been working closely with the EPA, DEP and the secretary of environmental affairs.

“We will be under full scrutiny,” Laskey said, adding that the barges will not operate in storms and they are fully sealed compartments the material will be in. When asked about construction vehicles Laskey said there will be five to 10 trucks used to bring in pipe, valves, backhoes and other items needed for construction.

The 250-foot salt water fishing pier, that will be built as part of the program will be funded from the salt water fishing permits. Included in the project will be an additional public parking lot, Laskey said, acknowledging that the area is growing in popularity. With that, the neighbors said, the popularity has drawn visitors 24-hours a day, people fishing and people coming for other reasons.

“There’s no policing. The Boston Harbor Islands close at dusk,” said resident Dawn Manning. “A lot goes on after dusk.”

Residents, many who are members of the Winthrop Citizen’s Action Committee, said that truck traffic continues to be a problem. Some complained of trucks hitting the curbs at 2 am, others blowing stop signs, some getting lost and stuck on the streets headed toward the plant. Duest urged residents to call the MWRA. There was also concern about whether a fire department should be on the island and a call for a greater police presence in the public use area.

Laskey said there is a security contractor for the plant and he will ask them to expand their patrol area. The island is not under the jurisdiction of the Winthrop Police because the island is in Boston. The jurisdiction comes under the State Police. The residents at the meeting liked the idea of the pier but they’d like the have someone checking permits. Another suggestion was to pay for parking.

“Well, progress was made to stop new trucks,” Manning said.

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