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Guest Post: Mama Love — a Powerful Force of Nature

If you’re like me, you are watching more cute animal videos during the pandemic than ever before. A lot of my favorites include animal mamas and babies, especially when mamas take heroic steps to keep their babies safe.

That is what I see playing out on a larger scale in the Town of Saugus, Massachusetts, just north of Boston. Saugus holds the distinction of hosting the oldest trash burner in the United States, operated by Wheelabrator. Simply put, Saugus contends with pollution from the stacks of this dinosaur as well as the toxic ash which is landfilled in a critical marsh area right next to the incinerator. There are scrubbers on the stacks — but here’s the issue: persistent pollutants like PFAS either get emitted from the incinerator stacks or they accumulate in the ash landfill. PFAS chemicals are deemed “forever chemicals” because they are persistent in the environment and in our bodies. With the ash landfill at risk for coastal flooding with more extreme weather due to the climate crisis, PFAS and other toxic chemicals pose a serious threat to the health of the region.

Jackie Mercurio's daughter Pia

Jackie’s daughter Pia

Saugus is also a community of amazing moms like Jackie Mercurio. Jackie is a lifelong resident of Saugus who is all too aware of the health threat posed by the Wheelabrator incinerator. Jackie’s family has lived in Saugus for over 100 years so it is her home and her heritage. Jackie’s mom Pam was a nurse and active member of the Saugus Board of Health who battled fiercely against the incinerator’s pollution and for health advances that would better protect her family and community.

Sadly, Jackie’s mom passed away a few years ago after a battle with brain cancer — a cancer known to have links to environmental pollution. Jackie carries on the fight for a healthier future to honor her mom’s memory — and for her 2-year-old daughter Pia who unfortunately never got the chance to meet her grandmother.

We salute you, Jackie, and all the concerned parents of Saugus, for your courageous and multi-generation battle for the health of your town and region.

Check out this recent Facebook Live event featuring Jackie, Mike Schade of the Mind the Store Campaign, and Erika Schreder, Science Director for Toxic-Free Future. They discuss the current campaign to convince McDonald’s to ban PFAS chemicals from their packaging — which ultimately ends up in landfills and trash incinerators all over the country, like the one in Saugus. Jackie calls on McDonald’s to phase out its toxic packaging and for Massachusetts to embrace zero waste policies that phase out incineration.

Help Jackie and the Alliance for Health and the Environment by getting involved and signing the McDonalds petition. We believe that McDonald’s can do better and we urge them to not turn a blind eye to the health of communities like Saugus…the ultimate destination for McDonald’s’ packaging.

Cindy Luppi is the New England Director for Clean Water Action. This post is cross-posted from We All Live Downstream, the Clean Water Blog. 

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