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Anti-casino group’s review questions assurances on water usage

Consultants hired by a coalition of area officials opposed to the proposed Foxwoods resort casino in Milford have concluded that the developer’s own consultants did not use industry standards when assessing potential water usage at the site, resulting in faulty assumptions.

Foxwoods consultants found that the casino would not create a problem with the town’s water supply, and that proposed mitigation measures would actually increase the amount of water available.

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But the review by consultants for the MetroWest Anti-Casino Coalition questions those assurances.

The coalition, formed by selectmen from Ashland, Holliston, Hopkinton, and Medway, commissioned the review in its ongoing effort to build a case against the proposed $1 billion casino planned for 187 acres along Route 16 and Interstate 495 at the Milford border with Holliston.

The 51-page review done by Kleinfelder, a global engineering consulting firm with an office in Framingham, was paid for with funds contributed by the four towns.

“In our estimation, what the proponents put forth is a plan that when all the planets line up perfectly, when everything works flawlessly, it might work,” Holliston Selectman Jay Marsden said. “At some point, if things don’t break right, there will be a ripple effect. . .  It’s balancing on a knife’s edge.”

But Sean Reardon, a vice president at the consulting firm Tetra Tech Inc. and the Foxwoods project manager, said the Kleinfelder review raises no new or substantially different issues than those discussed during the summerlong review of the developer’s proposal by consultants and engineers for Milford and the Milford Water Co.

“We have undergone a thorough review of the water issues by superbly qualified consultants engaged by the primary project stakeholders, the town of Milford and the Milford Water Company, and have reached a different conclusion,” Reardon wrote in an e-mail to the Globe.

Opponents of the casino are following through with a strategy laid out at a meeting in March 2012, before the Connecticut casino operator was even involved, which is to chip away at the developers’ case for approval by residents.

The water review released late last week by the coalition will be followed by a study reviewing the Foxwoods traffic mitigation plan, which includes a $100 million proposal to reconstruct 3.4 miles of Interstate 495 and add a connecting road through the proposed site of the casino to Route 16.

There is less than three weeks before the Nov. 19 special election in Milford on the host community agreement reached between selectmen and Foxwoods. A yes vote would allow the casino project to proceed, with its next hurdle winning Special Town Meeting’s OK to rezone the site.

The project needs to have the community’s support before Foxwoods can submit it to the state Gaming Commission, which will grant the lone resort casino license for Greater Boston next spring. A no vote on Nov. 19 would kill the project.

The coalition is trying to make its case that time after time, Foxwoods and the consultants hired by the town, but paid for by the developer, have sugar-coated the casino’s potential detrimental impacts on Milford and its surroundings.

“As we learned from those who live near Foxwoods in Connecticut, the benefits of a casino are short lived, but locals must live with a lifetime of headaches,” said the coalition’s chairman, Hopkinton Selectman Brian Herr. “If you think water bans in the region are bad now, wait until the casino sucks the region dry of its water resources.”

Herr and Marsden said their review shows that Foxwoods engineers relied on average daily demand water flow rates, rather than on peak flow, which they say is the industry standard.

“People say, ‘average, peak, what’s the big deal?’ ” Marsden said. “Well, it shows they’ve left themselves very little wiggle room.” And, according to Herr, “It shows that any time they go over average daily use, there will be no water for the people of Milford.”

Reardon rejects their conclusions. “We are confident in our conclusions, and the independent peer reviews performed by Tata and Howard and Tighe and Bond,” he wrote in an e-mail, adding that the mitigation measures detailed in the host community agreement guarantee that Milford’s water capacity will be increased by 35 percent.

He said the study done by his firm used the average daily demand rate because that is the measurement used as the basis for administering the Milford Water Co.’s Water Management Act permit.

“While there are absolutely situations where peak flow is used as a metric (such as peak demand analysis), it is not generally used in evaluating long-term water supply capacity where average annual flow is the primary reference point,” Reardon wrote.

According to the host agreement, Milford would receive an initial $32 million from Foxwoods should the casino be built. The town would then receive yearly payments of not less than $31 million, including tax payments and funds to pay for additional city services.

The Milford proposal is competing against two others for the region’s casino license. In East Boston, voters will decide Tuesday whether to approve the city’s host community agreement with Suffolk Downs, which recently hit a snag when the horse track’s partner in the project, Caesars Entertainment, was disqualified by the state. Voters in Everett have already approved plans for a casino proposed by Wynn Resorts.

Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@globe.com.
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