Wynn Boston Harbor Continues Massive Environmental Cleanup

Wynn Boston Harbor - Mystic River Cleanup

The Mystic River cleanup was seen by some skeptics as a gimmick, but the $30 million project has produced results.

When Steve Wynn sought the lone Boston-area casino license, one of the major selling points of his casino development plan was to clean up the Mystic River. One plan was to introduce 250,000 clams into the river, because each clam would clean up to a gallon of water a day.

Traveling along the Mystic River, you will see the progress of Wynn Development underway, in order to build their luxurious casino and resort. What was initially planned to be a $1.6 billion investment for the building project has now increased into a $2.4 billion plan. Over 1,500 workers have been tasked with building the 27-story casino along the Mystic River.

The casino development was only part of the picture, though.

Environment Cleanup in Everett

In order to begin construction, Wynn Resorts had some major on-land environmental cleaning up to do. The Everett site that the casino is built on was home to industrial chemical plants for decades, before those plants shut down.

The site was filled with old contaminated soil that was left on the property housing chemical plants for over a century, requiring more than 600 thousand tons of dirt to be cleared out.

The creation of a “living shoreline” is underway around the Wynn Boston Harbor site. Greenery has begun to grow again, making what was just sand and dirt a few months ago look unrecognizable. Wynn’s next focus will be on clearing out what lies under the water.

Once Upon a Waste Land

Now that the shoreline decontamination is nearing completion, the work on the Mystic River itself is set to begin. President of Wynn Development, Chris Gordon, mentioned, “You know, this was a chemical plant…stuff migrated into the water.”

For more than a century, the site housed chemical and industrial buildings, so those contaminants eventually seeped into the waterway.

Gordon said, “It was a biological desert. And what that means is they found nothing alive. And in the Northeast, in a harbor, that’s very unusual. There’s always organisms, there’s always something moving around. They found nothing in that area.”

Dredging the Mystic River

Since November, teams have worked 24/7 rotating eight-hour shifts to dredge the most polluted area along the Mystic River. A glimpse of the dirt being dug up shows how polluted it is.

In a massive barge that is filled with sediment and water, one can see the yellowish-brown sludge with streaks of rusty orange running throughout. Gordon said, “It’s got heavy metals in it. It’s got lead, it’s got arsenic, that kind of stuff. So you don’t want to spend a lot of time in contact with it.”

Once the water is drained from the barge, the remaining sediment is taken to a nearby dock and sorted. Eventually, the sediment gets dumped at a landfill far away from the Wynn Boston Harbor site.

Environmental Cleanup Can Be Pricey

Patrick Herron, Executive Director of the Mystic River Watershed Association, said, “The big picture here is that, in the near term, that area around the living shoreline…will have (a) healthy habitat for the first time in a couple hundred years.”

The cleanup serves two purposes. The first is to clean up one of the most polluted and toxic areas along the Mystic River. The second is to deepen the water along the casino’s site, which will make it easier for boats to dock.

Herron mentioned that it is very unusual for a new developer to come in and do such a drastic environmental cleanup. He also mentioned that few developers could even perform such a thorough cleanup.

Wynn Resorts Went Above-and-Beyond

Herron said, “What they’ll typically do is build a building on it and pave it over. And they’ll basically have shifted the burden to the next owner. To say look, don’t worry, we’re not going to put the public in harm’s way. We’ve paved it over and sealed it up.”

The challenge with this high level of a cleanup is the cost behind it. The total cleanup for both land and water is expected to cost Wynn around $30 million. Having a multi-billion dollar casino corporation handle the cleanup was not just a major selling point to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, says Herron, but it might have been the only realistic way such a thorough cleanup job could have been done.

The sheer size of the resort development makes the Mystic River cleanup possible. The Watershed Association’s executive directed added, “Your profit margin would disappear quickly on the three-floor condo, versus the scale of development here.”

The cleanup is expected to be done by mid-February of this year, just in time to make way for migrating fish. If all goes well, the Everett waterside soon will be teeming with marine life. Not long after, the area around Wynn Boston Harbor should be teeming with gamblers. The Wynn Boston Harbor is scheduled to open in June 2019.