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Town loses ground in battle to keep hazardous-waste plant out

Massachusetts 1, NIMBYs 0. That's the score after Round One of the battle over a plan to build one of the world's largest hazardous-waste treatment plants, in a rural town west of Boston.

The NIMBYs - the letters stand for ''not in my back yard'' - were dealt a setback when a state superior court judge on Jan. 17 upheld the controversial 1980 Massachusetts Hazardous Waste Facility Siting Law. Judge William O'Neil Jr. found the law does not violate a home-rule amendment to the state constitution, which allows cities and towns to bar development through zoning ordinances and bylaws.

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His action was in response to a suit filed jointly by the town and a vocal antiplant group known as STOP IT. The ruling clears the way for the state to secure approval for construction of the plant by the nationally known IT Corporation of Wilmington, Calif.

News coverage of the controversy has drawn national attention to the tiny town of Warren since late 1981, when it became the object of IT's search for a site for the $100 million plant. The facility would dispose of much of the 500, 000 tons of chemical waste generated in Massachusetts each year. Opponents fear the plant might include a landfill that could leak pollutants into nearby drinking-water supplies.

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