Crushed brick, rocks, and thick weeds cover much of the 32.4 acres of industrial land on the Mystic River where Las Vegas developer Steve Wynn proposes to build a glamorous $1.2 billion resort casino.
But before any work could begin at the site, chemicals buried in the soil, ground water, and river sediment must be remediated to comply with the state’s strict environmental regulations.
Ash, arsenic, and lead are among the remnants of toxic materials tainting the land, according to an environmental consultant hired by the Wynn group. Monsanto Chemical Co. operated a processing plant on the land for decades until closing it in 1992.
“The site is quite contaminated,” said Chris Gordon, the project manager for Wynn, at a meeting with state environmental officials Wednesday in Everett that included a tour of the site. “It’s predictable for this type of site . . . We want to make sure the site is cleaned to a very high standard.”
Remediation of the site is an essential component of Wynn’s application for a casino license filed with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The panel is expected to award the one license for Greater Boston early next year.
Everett voters on June 22 overwhelmingly approved a ballot question to allow the casino to be built in the small industrial city. Still, Wynn faces competition from two other proposals, including one at the Suffolk Downs racetrack on the Revere-East Boston line.
Wynn has an option to buy the Everett site from the property’s owner, FBT Everett Realty. Under state law, as the property owner, FBT is required to remediate the land to a standard acceptable for redevelopment.
FBT, an affiliate of DeNunzio Realty of Cambridge, has set up monitoring wells around the site to measure the level of contaminants. Dustin DeNunzio, a principal with DeNunzio Realty, did not respond to a call seeking comment.
The Wynn group said it will clean the land to a higher standard, because it plans extensive landscaping and an underground parking garage. “We’ll be excavating land for the garages that otherwise wouldn’t be disturbed,” Gordon said.
The cleanup likely will involve both removing soil from the site, and treating some soil that will be left in place. “It’s probably going to be a combination,” Gordon said.
Although still in the planning stages, the cleanup has drawn the scrutiny of local officials.
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone on June 13 submitted a petition to FBT to designate the land a “public involvement plan site, ’’ so that residents of neighboring communities would have the right to voice their opinions on how the site is remediated.
The designation, which is allowed by state law, aims to ensure the public has a say in a private redevelopment. FBT must draft a plan that includes a public comment period and public access to information regarding its cleanup initiative, a state spokesman said.
“They have to come up with a plan so that the public can get involved in the entire process,” said Ed Coletta, a state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman.
Wynn’s project would involve building a 19-story hotel tower with 551 rooms, a 24-hour casino, a spa, conference meeting space, shops, and restaurants. Public amenities include a winter garden to be built in a greenhouse, a harbor walk, biking paths, and a dock for water shuttle service.
According to Wynn’s environmental notice filed with the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the hotel tower would reach about 300 feet. The building would include 2.8 million square feet of space. The casino will occupy 7.5 percent of the space, Gordon said. An estimated 392,700 gallons of water would be used each day on the site, the filing states.
Copies of the filing are available at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Everett Public Library, the mayor’s office, and the community development office at City Hall.
The state will accept public comments on the project until July 12. “This is an opportunity for public input,” said Anne Canaday, a Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act analyst assigned to the project. “There will be environmental impacts associated with this project. Comments don’t have to be written in a formal letter. They could be sent in as bullet points,’’ she said, noting that the agency’s top official “is really interested in what people have to say about the project.”
Comments can be mailed to Richard K. Sullivan Jr., Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, 100 Cambridge St., Suite 900, Boston, MA 02114-2524, Attn: MEPA Office EEA#15060. They also can be faxed to 617-626-1181, or sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also at the meeting with the Wynn group and state environmental officials on Wednesday, Medford’s community development director questioned why the casino’s preliminary traffic plan has not addressed her city’s concerns, particularly regarding the area around the MBTA’s Wellington Station.
“I’m concerned about the distribution of traffic,” Lauren DiLorenzo said during the meeting at Everett City Hall, and asked why Wellington Circle was not in the traffic study.
Wellington Circle, less than a mile from the proposed casino, marks the intersection of routes 16 and 28. Wynn estimates the casino will generate more than 29,384 vehicle trips on a weekday, and more than 35,754 trips on a Saturday.
Gordon said traffic engineers still are studying a number of area intersections.
“We know [Wellington] is a critical area,” he said.
“There is no question it will be part of our traffic analysis.”