BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — A ruling this week by a state court has put the city back in the driver’s seat in its lengthy legal battle over the cleanup of the polluted transfer station property on Swampscott Road.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court overturned a 2012 lower-court decision that had been hailed as a victory by neighbors who are strongly opposed to a city agreement with Northside Carting, operators of the transfer station.
Under that pact, Northside Carting would clean up the former incinerator site and make other improvements to the 9-acre property. In exchange, the city agreed to increase the amount of material that could be trucked to the site from 100 to 400 tons, with a maximum of 500 tons on peak days.
Neighbors complained of traffic and health problems, the impact on property values and other issues.
The transfer station currently handles construction debris and yard waste. Under the new agreement, it would also start accepting business and residential trash from area communities.
Bill Thomson, president of Northside, said he “looks forward to getting the project in front of the City Council and moving it forward.”
The project still needs state approvals and could face more appeals.
“We’re disappointed, and we’re going to consider the options,” said Carl Goodman, the attorney for the plaintiffs.
Asked if one of those options is an appeal to the state Supreme Judicial Court, Goodman said, “I haven’t yet had a chance to speak with my clients.”
Mayor Kim Driscoll said she hopes this latest ruling will spur the two sides to talk.
“We’d welcome the opportunity to sit down and see if we can resolve this,” she said.
At the same time, Driscoll stressed that the city is under state orders to clean up the contaminated site, a project expected to cost more than $1 million.
The appeals court upheld a 2009 decision by the Salem Board of Health, which said the agreement between the city and Northside Carting was a “minor modification” to a site assignment. The city used that term on the advice of the Department of Environmental Protection.
The attorney general filed a brief in support of the city.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.