Wynn Hopes to Bring New Clean Up Technique to Mystic River Dredging

By Seth Daniel

The Wynn Boston Harbor team is hoping that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will approve a new, less invasive method of cleaning up the polluted sediments in the Mystic River as it approaches a decision by the state on its upcoming river clean up phase.

Wynn Resorts’ Jacqui Krum told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) in a meeting this month in Springfield that the company hopes to be able to extensively use the ‘Monitored Natural Recovery’ technique to clean up a large part of the Mystic River in the designated work area.

“We have three alternatives right now for the remediation of river sediments,” said Krum. “The first is the most extensive…It’s a full dredge and cap. We would dredge all of the impacted sediments and cap the area and monitor the stability of the cap. The second is a partial dredge and cap, where we cap only the deep channel. The third is a partial dredge and cap and then use monitored natural recovery….What that means is you can let the tides clean some of the dredged area. We would still have to dredge and cap in certain areas, but the rest we would monitor over a multi-year period.”

The Mystic River clean up by Wynn is the final stage of environmental clean ups on the project, with the landslide clean up and remediation finishing up this month. The River, however, is probably the most polluted part of the project. It requires the removal of decades of sediments from the old Monsanto Chemical Company that are locked deep in the mud of the channel. In fact, the area under the water is so contaminated that a robotic study of the underwater environment deemed that it was completely devoid of life.

Wynn Boston Harbor hopes to change that.

It will be up to the DEP, however, to determine the best way to make that change.

Wynn filed its Notice of Project Change (NPC) with state environmental regulators (known as MEPA) in December detailing the project involving the sediment removal from the Mystic River. The comment period for that review of the dredging and clean up operation ends on March 28. Wynn expects a decision on their NPC from MEPA by April 7.

Commissioner Enrique Zuniga was concerned that Wynn might be trying to save money at the environment’s expense, as Monitored Natural Recovery is not widely used in Massachusetts. However, Krum said, interestingly enough, that there was really very little difference in cost between the three. It is only that Wynn believes a longer-term project and longer-term monitoring of the River will result in a better job over the long run.

“Strangely enough, the difference in price is not as significant as you might think given the monitoring you have to continue to do with Monitored Natural Recovery,” said Krum. “For an environmental perspective, Monitored Natural Recovery is the least invasive. That’s one of the reasons we have been looking at it. It has been used in other areas successfully, but not yet in Massachusetts. We’re interested to see if it is a viable alternative and if DEP has the appetite for allowing it.”

Cleaning up the river was required of Wynn as part of the environmental permitting process, but the company has emphasized that they are extremely interested in getting the shoreline and the waterway done right. That, they have said, is because they rely very heavily on water transportation, the Harborwalk greenway, open space on the water and the ‘Living Shoreline’ as keystones to the overall project.

The navigational channel for boating has already been approved and work on that is underway. Meanwhile, the initial work on the Harborwalk and Living Shoreline are also in the beginning stages of work.

The sediment removal from the River, however, is on a very tight window – as there is only a limited time in the late fall and winter when the work can be done due to fish migrations in the Mystic River.

The overall work will not require any trucks or traffic on the roads, as it will all be performed by boats and barges utilizing the River only. It is expected to take four months and Wynn officials have said they really want to get it done late in 2017 so they aren’t rushing to finish that aspect of the project in late 2018 and early 2019 when the focus will be on the inside of the resort in preparation for opening in June 2019.

“We hope the remediation can be complete in one season, but…it could take two seasons,” said Krum.

Krum said that even though there has been a lot of testing on the riverbed, they still don’t exactly know what they will find.

She said they are currently before the Conservation Commissions in Everett and Boston seeking permission to conduct more tests.

“We’ve done significant testing, but we really have to do more,” she concluded.

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